Thursday, March 16 2006 @ 02:20 PM CST
Contributed by: bobmoody
Once it had landed at the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, it was recovered, transported to a special lab at a NASA facility in Houston, and research is now underway on the first of these exciting never-before-seen-particles.
|Brilliantly illuminating the countryside over the Pacific Northwest and Northern Nevada and Utah, Stardust announces its return to Earth after a spectacularly successful cometary material return mission.|
Early reports from Stardust mission scientists reveals that there are materials found within the dust grains gathered from Comet Wild 2 that had to have formed in very high-temperature conditions, namely, the mineral olivine. This was totally unexpected as Stardust Principal Investigator Donald Brownlee of University of Washington at Seatlle explains."The interesting thing is we are finding these high-temperature minerals in materials from the coldest place in the solar system." Most AOAS club members will remember some of the meteorites that I've brought to club meetings from time-to-time, and olivine is a common ingredient in meteorites and in many Earth minerals. Another well-known name in meteoritical research is Michael Zolinsky who happens to be the curator and a co-investigator on the Stardust team says, "[finding] high-temperature minerals...supports a particular model where strong bipolar jets coming out of the early sun propelled material formed near to the sun outward to the outer reaches of the solar system."
|Tiny fragment of the high-temperature mineral olivine found as one of the comet dust grains imbedded within the aerogel material on the Stardust mission.|
While olivine is a component of iron and magnesium, as well as other elements, the olivine in the dust taken from the Wild 2 samples is also rich in calcium, aluminum, and titanium.
The remarkable material which performed the task of capturing these dust grains and interstellar particles is called Aerogel, and is about 1000 times less dense than glass. To look at it, one can easily see where it gets the nickname "solid blue smoke".
Click "read more" for an image of Aerogel, more images of cometary particles, and links to websites to learn more about Stardust