Ancient parts of a comet to land in Open University lab
Before the end of January particles from a distant comet will be delivered to The Open University and research will begin on what could be keys to the origin of life in the universe.
NASA’s Stardust mission is returning to Earth early January 15th after a three billion-mile (4.6 billion-km) trip to collect interstellar comet dust from Comet Wild 2 (pronounced vilt after the Swiss man who discovered it). During a brief encounter with Comet Wild 2 nearly two years ago, Stardust captured thousands of particles as it came within 146 miles (240 km) of the comet, surviving the high speed impact of millions of dust particles and small rocks up to nearly half a centimetre across. Stardust’s tennis racket shaped collector captured thousands of these comet particles into cells filled with Aerogel-- a substance so light it almost floats in air.
The samples are returning to Earth in a capsule that will parachute into the Utah desert, the first sample-return mission to a comet. The first samples will be made available to a small number of teams, including The Open University’s Planetary and Space Science Research Institute (PSSRI), for preliminary analysis before their release to the wider scientific community.
A team from The Open University including Dr Simon Green, Dr Ian Franchi, Dr John Bridges and Professors Tony McDonnell and Monica Grady will be among the worlds first scientists to analyse the samples that contain the fundamental building blocks of our Solar System. Analysis may be able to determine not only the origins of the Solar System from these samples, but also possibly the origins of life.
“Stardust could provide a new window into the distant past,” said Dr Green. “Comets are made of ice and are very cold and have been very cold since they were formed, so they havent been changed since the beginning of the formation of the Solar System. So we have almost a little time capsule of what things were like 4.5 billion years ago. We can also learn about processes in stars and interstellar dust clouds in which the dust grains originally formed. They may also reveal information about the origins of life since comets are a source of organic material that may have formed the original building blocks of life-forming molecules."
PSSRI involvement in this mission covers a number of areas:
- The design and provision of sensors for the Dust Flux Monitor instrument and measurement of dust impacts at the Wild 2 encounter
- Members of the dust coma modelling team li>Development of sample extraction and characterisation techniques in Aerogel.
- Members of the Preliminary Examination Teams for sample analysis.
Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive Officer of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), which part funded the UK involvement in Stardust, said, “The return of the samples from Stardust is a truly remarkable feat. It will be the first time in the history of space exploration that samples from a comet will be returned to Earth. It is particularly exciting that the Open University team will be one of the first to analyse the samples – helping to further our understanding of the origins of the Solar System.”
Louis De La Foret | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...