Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Like a Rock: New Mineral Named for Astronomer

16.06.2008
A new mineral, the first to be discovered inside a particle from a comet, has officially been named in honor of University of Washington astronomer Donald Brownlee

The International Mineralogical Association has named a new mineral, the first to be discovered in a particle from a comet, in honor of Donald Brownlee, a University of Washington astronomer who revolutionized research on interplanetary dust entering Earth's atmosphere.

The manganese silicide mineral, a combination of manganese and silicon, is now officially called brownleeite and joins a list of more than 4,300 accepted minerals. It was found inside a particle collected from a dust stream entering the atmosphere in 2003.

Brownlee, whose UW office is adorned with a variety of mineral specimens, was clearly pleased with the honor – and somewhat amused.

"I've always been very intrigued by minerals, so it's great to be one," he said. "I never dreamed I'd have a mineral named after me. I guess maybe being a vitamin is next."

The particle was captured by a high-altitude NASA aircraft, and NASA researchers in Houston, along with collaborators elsewhere in the United States, Germany and Japan, identified the compound. (See http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/jun/HQ_08143_comet_dust.html.) Brownleeite, a semiconductor material, can be synthesized but has not been found naturally on Earth.

The team that found the manganese silicide was led by NASA scientist Keiko Nakamura-Messenger from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, who provided documentation for the international mineralogical body to declare the specimen to be a new mineral. The team also asked that it be named for Brownlee.

"This really did surprise me because I know it took a lot of effort to get this mineral approved," Brownlee said.

Nakamura-Messenger's team believes the dust particle originated in a comet, possibly comet 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup, which was predicted to be the source of an Earth-crossing dust stream in April 2003, when the particle was captured.

The Earth is covered with more than 30,000 tons of particles from space every year, one particle per square meter of planet surface every day. But the particles are so small that it would take 10 billion to fully cover that square meter of surface, so they are extremely hard to find.

"That's a lot of dirt and it takes 300 million years to build up a layer as thick as the diameter of a human hair," Brownlee said.

He began his efforts to capture particles of provable extraterrestrial origin while he was a UW doctoral student in the late 1960s. Others had made similar efforts previously, but they proved to be unsuccessful. Using a succession of high-altitude balloons, Brownlee captured a few particles that could be proven to have come from somewhere other than Earth.

His third balloon carried an 800-pound machine he calls "the vacuum monster," which dangled below the balloon as it drifted at an altitude of 125,000 feet, or about 24 miles. The machine made it possible to sample a very large volume of air, and eventually he was able to capture a total of about a dozen interplanetary dust particles from seven flights.

He later devised a small collector that could be attached to the fuselage of high-flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft and, because the planes remain airborne for so long and fly at high speeds, they are able to collect hundreds of particles.

"Almost all of the flights are done for something else, and these detectors are along for the ride. When they are opened, they just flop out into the atmosphere and gather particles as the plane moves along," Brownlee said.

Brownlee also is a leading authority on comets. He is the principal investigator of NASA's Stardust mission, which traveled to comet 81P/Wild-2 beyond the orbit of Mars, captured particles streaming from the comet's surface, and returned them to Earth in January 2006. The samples are curated by the Johnson Space Center.

For more information, contact Brownlee at (206) 543-8575 or brownlee@astro.washington.edu.

Vince Stricherz | newswise
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>