Update: 7 Dec 06 - Foil tests at JSC and Comet Dust Results

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bmendez
Stardust@home Team
Stardust@home Team
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Update: 7 Dec 06 - Foil tests at JSC and Comet Dust Results

Post by bmendez » Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:27 am

The foil unfolding test at JSC is complete, and the analysis is underway. The point of this test was to find out if unfolding the aluminum foils wrapping the backs of the aerogel tiles would tilt or distort the aerogel significantly. If it does this could be a problem, since we rely on the stability of the aerogel tiles to be able to reconstruct trajectories, and thus distinguish betwen interstellar dust and interplanetary dust. We want to unfold the foils so that we can examine and image the tiles using transmitted illumination (light from below the tile) rather than reflected illumination (light through the microscope objective lens). We know from previous experience that transmitted illumination is vastly better than reflected, but we've been prevented from using it on the Stardust Interstellar collectors because of these aluminum foils.

This test was done on the flight spare tray by first making a focus map (a measurement of the altitude of the aerogel tile at about 200 points on a grid) before unfolding the foil, then doing it again after. We are cautiously optimistic that the tilting and distortion of the aerogel were minimal. We'll let you know.

Also, after nearly a year of intense effort on the part of nearly 200 scientists around the world, the first reports on the analysis of the cometary dust collected by Stardust (the other Stardust mission!) are coming out next week in Science magazine. There will be seven papers: a summary of the mission and the exciting discoveries that were made, and six articles by the Preliminary Examination subteams. Each subteam focussed on different kinds of analysis of the samples: mineralogy/petrology, cratering, organics, bulk chemistry, isotopes, and optical and infrared spectroscopy.

The scientists, including us at Berkeley, are now busily preparing longer, specialized papers for a special issue (or two!) of Meteoritics and Planetary Science. We will be posting overviews of the science results here, which can be read by non-specialists after the issue is released.

We thank you sincerely for your patience with Stardust@home during the last few weeks. Although we have been making steady progress, we have just been overwhelmed by the work required for the preparation of the cometary papers. These papers were a contractual obligation to NASA, and so they had to be finished quickly. Now that the papers are going out, we are really looking forward to concentrating on finding the interstellar dust!

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