Comet dust from Stardust mission - stock photo
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Comet dust from Stardust mission

Researcher displays a sample from the Stardust mission, which collected samples of comet dust and returned them to the Earth. The sample was analyzed at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. The particles are the first pieces of a comet to have ever been plucked from outer space and returned to Earth. The collection was part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Stardust sample return mission which launched in February 1999. The primary goal of Stardust was to collect dust and carbon-based samples during its closest encounter with Comet Wild 2. The Stardust sample-return canister parachuted onto the desert salt flats of Utah on Jan. 15, following a journey of nearly three million miles, bringing with it thousands of particles from the edge of the solar system. Four of those samples recently spent a few days at Argonne, and almost that entire time they were bombarded by the high-precision X-ray beams from the Advanced Photon Source (APS). The samples are so small that several particles fit across the width of a single human hair. By using the APS to map the samples, researchers hope to determine their chemical makeup and to gain a better understanding of the composition of comets and other planetary bodies, including the Earth. The studies were done at GeoSoilEnviroCARS, a research facility at the APS operated by the University of Chicago. The particles were captured in aerogel, a special type of foamed glass, made so lightweight that it is barely visible and almost floats in air. Looking at the aerogel microscopically, Flynn said, it would resemble a spider web. The particles travel through it, hitting individual strands of the web, slowing with each impact, and eventually standing still, embedded in the gel. The comet particles make carrot-shaped tunnels in the aerogel as they are stopped. At the pointed tip of each tunnel, a tiny particle will be found. Researchers are analyzing the particles while they are still em...

Credit
Science Source / Argonne National Laboratory

Dimensions
2100 x 1391 pixels

Print Size @ 300 dpi
7 x 5 inches / 18 x 12 cm

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