Welcome to Phase 3

All dusters are familiar with the words that appear when starting a dusting session: “Expect the unexpected.” The unexpected has certainly happened. We are cautiously excited about an interstellar dust candidate, named Orion by its discoverer, Bruce Hudson from Ontario, Canada. This particle is a so-called “midnight” track, because of the angle of its direction on entry into the collector, and looks quite different from our original expectations about what an interstellar dust track might look like. But synchrotron analyses of this particle indicate that it may be the first known sample of matter ever collected from the local interstellar medium.

So far, Orion is unique. We are desperate to find more midnight tracks. To learn more, see the ISPE Update #6.

The calibration movies in Phase 3 reflect this new direction in finding more midnight tracks. Although we don’t insist on it, we encourage you to go through the new training session, even if you are a very experienced duster. There is no need to re-register.

Your efforts led to the discovery of candidate Orion. It also may be a false alarm, but we are convinced that we are on the right track based on this discovery and recent experiments that we’ve done with our colleagues at the van de Graaf dust accelerator at Heidelberg. We are optimistic that during Phase 3 you will find more “midnight” tracks. To be frank, the Stardust@home distributed thinking project was initially met with skepticism by the professional meteoritics community, but the demonstrated success of this approach—you have discovered 28 tracks that could not have been found by any other means—has convinced the critics. Congratulations!


Andrew Westphal
Stardust@home Director