Stories tagged Stardust mission

Jan
07
2011

Comet Temple 1
Comet Temple 1Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD
The following is from a listserv I am on that I thought was interesting.

On February 14, NASA's Stardust-NExT (New Exploration of Tempel 1) mission will encounter Comet Tempel 1, providing a unique opportunity to measure the dust properties of two separate comets (Wild 2 and Tempel 1) with the same instrument for accurate data comparison. The encounter will also provide a comparison between two observations of a single comet, Tempel 1, taken before and after a single orbital pass around the sun.

NASA's Stardust spacecraft will fly within 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) of Comet Tempel 1 on February 14, 2011, at about 8:36 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

NASA's Deep Impact mission observed Comet Tempel 1 in the summer of 2005, as the comet was inbound toward the Sun on its approximately 5.5-year orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Deep Impact's primary mission was to deliver a special impactor spacecraft into the path of Comet Tempel 1. The spacecraft -- and many ground-based observers -- observed the impact and the ejected material. Scientists were surprised the cloud was composed of a fine, powdery material, not the expected water, ice, and dirt. The spacecraft did find the first evidence of surface ice on the surface of a comet instead of just inside a comet.

The Stardust-NExT mission is a low-cost use of an in-flight spacecraft redirected to a new target. Prior to its tasking for Tempel 1, the Stardust spacecraft successfully flew through the cloud of dust that surrounds the nucleus of comet Wild 2 in Jan. 2004. The particles of cometary material and gathered during this flyby were then returned to Earth aboard a sample return capsule which landed in the Utah desert in January 2006.

Dec
15
2006

Hot comet: Results of research from the Stardust comet particle retrieval mission are showing that the surface of comet Wild2 is composed of materials from the inner portions of our solar system. It used to be believed that comets were composed of matter from the outer regions of our solar system.
Hot comet: Results of research from the Stardust comet particle retrieval mission are showing that the surface of comet Wild2 is composed of materials from the inner portions of our solar system. It used to be believed that comets were composed of matter from the outer regions of our solar system.
What makes up a comet?

Scientists are starting to find out as they dig into the samples of a comet collected through the recent Stardust space mission. And they’re finding out that a comet is made up a of lot more than space’s intergalactic dust bunnies, which used to be the original concept of comet formation..

Testing on the samples from the Comet Wild2 are showing that it is made up of hot particles from the inner solar system that drifted out to the colder ranges of the our solar system around Pluto’s orbit. Prior to these finding, astronomers thought that comets were made up from tiny, cold space particles from regions of space further out of our solar system that were drifting into our system.

After doing the recent tests on Wild2’s comet dust, researchers are now estimated that around ten percent of a comet’s make up could have come from our inner solar system near the sun. How those particles have ended up as part of a comet are still a mystery to researchers, however. It may be the result of the chaotic activity at the forming of the solar system when “hot” inner solar systems were blasted out into the outer reaches of space.

And scientists are finding out that not all comets are created equal. Dust from Wild2 is very different from that of Tempel1, which was studied by NASA’s Deep Impact mission. On that mission, NASA last July crashed a probe into a comet and analyzed the dust and ice that spewed out from the crash. No surface materials were analyzed.

With Wild2, the Stardust mission sent a capsule around the sun and then swooping past Wild2 to scrape up thousands of tiny samples of comet surface materials. That capsule returned to Earth in January for scientists to begin analyzing the make up of the comet’s surface.

Some of the minerals found in the Wild2 dust are “high-temperature” minerals that were likely formed in the hottest portions of our solar system.