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Stardust Canister Opened: 'A Huge Success'

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Stardust
Stardust Canister Opened
Credit: space.com/Leonard David

Fresh from its fall to Earth last weekend, the Stardust sample return capsule has been opened in a cleanroom at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas.

“It exceeds all expectations,” said Donald Brownlee, Stardust’s lead scientist from the University of Washington, Seattle. “It’s a huge success,” he explained in a University of Washington statement released today.

“We can see lots of impacts. There are big ones, there are small ones. The big ones you can see from 10 feet away,” Brownlee observed.

A preliminary estimation is that there might be more than a million microscopic specks of dust embedded in Stardust’s aerogel-laden collector. Furthermore, it appears—from the size of the carrot-shaped impact tracks in the aerogel—that there are about 10 particles of 100 microns in size.

More: space.com - Stardust Canister Opened


Asteroid Collision Fueled Ancient Dust Storm on Earth

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Collision
Asteroid Collision Fueled Ancient Dust Storm on Earth
Credit: space.com/Robert Roy Britt

One of the biggest cosmic dust storms of the past 80 million years left a blanket of material on Earth after an asteroid in space broke apart, researchers said today.

The conclusion is based on evidence in ocean sediments, which computer models have tied to an observed bevy of asteroid siblings still roaming the solar system.

The thinking is that the space rocks were once part of a larger asteroid, some 100 miles (160 kilometers) wide, that broke up – possibly in a collision – out in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The drama took place 8.2 million years ago. That much has been reasoned before. The event would have created vast amounts of dust, some of which would have been scooped up by our planet.

More: space.com - Asteroid Collision Fueled Ancient Dust Storm on Earth