Update: 17 May 2006 - Stardust aerogel scanning status

Stardust@home project news.

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Stardust@home Team
Stardust@home Team
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Joined: Wed May 17, 2006 12:24 pm
Location: UC Berkeley, CA

Update: 17 May 2006 - Stardust aerogel scanning status

Post by albutterworth »

Welcome to the Stardust@home Updates. Here we'll keep you posted on how the automated scanning is progessing. Follow our efforts to get images for you to search for interstellar dust tracks.

We installed an automated scanning system at Johnson Space Center in the Cosmic Dust Lab. That was several months ago. Since then we've made many safety checks and improvements before we were allowed to bring in the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector from the Stardust Cleanroom safe (priceless scientific value, but $100M if NASA is counting).

On April 26th, we transferred the aerogel collector and started scanning!

We can scan one tile per day using the automated microscope at Johnson Space Center, producing about 6000 focus movies. There are 130 tiles in the interstellar tray in total.

We have had several false starts. First, we decided to change the illumination conditions so that the images showed better contrast. Next we discovered a hardware interface problem which gradually slowed the automated scanning right down. That needed a software fix and some testing.

Each time we discover a problem we can end up rescanning a tile several times. It's frustrating, but it's important that we get high quality data to make the searching possible. This project is definitely not a race!

We invite you along with us at Stardust@home to take part in a real science project. There's frustration when it doesn't work perfectly, immediately! But there are those highs when we find something exciting...

Anna Butterworth
Scientist, UC Berkeley
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