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 Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

nachricht Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life
17.08.2017 | Goldschmidt Conference

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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New gene catalog of ocean microbiome reveals surprises

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

AI implications: Engineer's model lays groundwork for machine-learning device

18.08.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>