Stardust@home : A Massively Distributed Public Search for Interstellar Dust in the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector
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- In January 2006, the Stardust mission will return the first samples from a solid solar system body beyond the Moon. Stardust was in the news in January 2004, when it encountered comet Wild2 and captured a sample of cometary dust. But Stardust carries an equally important payload: the first samples of contemporary interstellar dust ever collected. Although it is known that interstellar (IS) dust penetrates into the inner solar system [2, 3], to date not even a single contemporary interstellar dust particle has been captured and analyzed in the laboratory. Stardust uses aerogel collectors to capture dust samples. Identification of interstellar dust impacts in the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector probably cannot be automated, but will require the expertise of the human eye. However, the labor required for visual scanning of the entire collector would exceed the resources of any reasonably-sized research group. We are developing a project to recruit the public in the search for interstellar dust, based in part on the wildly popular SETI@home project, which has five million subscribers. We call the project Stardust@home. Using sophisticated chemical separation techniques, certain types of refractory ancient IS particles (so-called presolar grains) have been isolated from primitive meteorites (e.g.,  ). Recently, presolar grains have been identified in Interplanetary Dust Particles. Because these grains are not isolated chemically, but are recognized only by their unusual isotopic compositions, they are probably less biased than presolar grains isolated from meteorites. However, it is entirely possible that the typical interstellar dust particle is isotopically solar in composition. The Stardust collection of interstellar dust will be the first truly unbiased one.
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20050180792.
Lunar and Planetary Science XXXVI, Part 21; LPI-Contrib-1234-Pt-21.
- Copyright, Distribution under U.S. Government purpose rights.
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