Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

2-timing spacecraft has date with another comet

14.02.2011
NASA's Stardust spacecraft, equipped with the University of Chicago's Dust Flux Monitor Instrument (DFMI), is hurtling at more than 24,000 miles an hour toward a Valentine's Day encounter with comet Tempel 1.

Stardust will approach to within 124 miles of Tempel 1 at 10:56 p.m. CST Monday, Feb. 14. The spacecraft flew within 150 miles of comet Wild 2 in 2004, when it collected thousands of tiny dust particles streaming from the comet's nucleus for laboratory analysis.

The spacecraft dropped off the samples in a canister that parachuted onto the desert salt flats of Utah in January 2006 following a journey of nearly approximately 3.5 billion miles. But Stardust, still healthy and with fuel to spare, soon went back onto the interplanetary market, looking for a second mission.

The mission will be the first to allow Thanasas Economou, Senior Scientist at UChicago's Enrico Fermi Institute, and his fellow members of the Stardust-NExT (New Exploration of Tempel) science team to look for changes on a comet's surface that occurred following an orbit around the sun. They will compare Stardust's data from Tempel 1 with findings from a previous probe that also studied that comet.

"We are very excited that we can visit a second comet—comet Tempel 1—with the same spacecraft after we visited the Wild 2 comet in 2004," Economou said. "The Dust Flux Monitor Instrument is healthy and ready to take another look at this comet."

Stardust had only one sample-return canister, so this time the spacecraft will be unable to capture cometary dust for analysis back on Earth. Few at the time thought that the spacecraft would be able to visit another comet, "but even so, we are looking forward to seeing what kind of results we will get," Economou said.

Sizing up a new crater

They also are interested in obtaining photographs of the crater left on Tempe 1 by a probe launched from the Deep Impact spacecraft in July 2005. The 817-pound copper-aluminum probe generated so much dust that the spacecraft was unable to obtain images of the crater following impact. Such images would permit scientists to estimate the new crater's depth and diameter.

The impact enabled scientists to study the composition of Tempel 1, a Jupiter-class comet whose orbit has been modified by close passages to the planet. Stardust now has the opportunity to collect additional data on how Jupiter-family comets formed and evolved.

The DFMI was developed by Economou and the late John Simpson, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Physics, and the late Anthony Tuzzolino, Senior Scientist in UChicago's Fermi Institute.

The instrument detected as many as several hundred particles each second during Stardust's flyby of comet Wild 2 in January 2004. Most of those particles measured no more than a few microns in diameter, too small to see with the naked eye. Just a few measured more than 10 microns, about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair.

Tempel 1 has displayed less surface activity than did Wild 2, "but we are going there with a higher velocity, so probably the flux will be equal to or a little more than we had during the Wild 2 encounter," Economou said.

The Tempel 1 flyby likely will be the last assignment for Stardust, which is running low on fuel after logging almost 3.7 billion miles in space since its launch in 1999. Economou, meanwhile, will continue his collaborations on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission and the Cassini mission to Saturn. He also is working to establish a new astronomical observatory near his childhood home in Ziakas, Greece.

Related links:

Jet Propulsion Laboratory Featured Scientist Interview with Thanasis Economou
http://stardustnext.jpl.nasa.gov/science/economou_inter.html
Starlit memories lead scientist back to his roots (Jan. 11, 2010)
http://www.uchicago.edu/features/20100111_economou.shtml
Stardust-NexT web video:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.cfm
University researchers examine Stardust mission's comet samples (April 27, 2006)

http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/060427/stardust.shtml

University instrument collects data on Stardust (July 15, 2004)
http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/040715/stardust.shtml
Argonne scientists' stardust analysis brings nucleosynthesis full circle (Feb. 19, 2004)

http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/040219/stardust.shtml

NASA launches Chicago scientists' data-collection instrument on Stardust (March 18, 1999)

http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/990318/stardust.shtml

Steve Koppes | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uchicago.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>