The University of Colorado at Boulders long heritage with NASA planetary missions will continue Jan. 17 with the launch of a student space dust instrument on the New Horizons Mission to Pluto from Floridas Kennedy Space Center.
All three components of the SDC assembled and ready to be put into the New Horizons spacecraft. If you will notice, the dust detector itself is protected from dust hitting it before it is supposed to.
As the first student-built instrument ever selected by the space agency to fly on a planetary mission, the CU-Boulder Student Dust Counter, or SDC, will monitor the density of dust grains in space as New Horizons buzzes to Pluto and beyond. The dust grains are of high interest to researchers because they are the building blocks of the solar systems planets, said Research Associate Mihaly Horanyi of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, principal investigator for the student instrument.
The student team hopes to identify as-yet-undetected clumps of dust in the dust disk of the solar system caused by the gravity of the outer planets, said Horanyi, who is also a professor in the physics department. "This will help us to understand the formation of our own planets, as well as those seen in dust disks around other stars," he said.
Mihaly Horanyi | EurekAlert!
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