Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ancient parts of a comet to land in Open University lab

12.01.2006


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 world’s 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 haven’t 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
Further information:
http://www3.open.ac.uk/media/fullstory.aspx?id=8100

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Magnetic field traces gas and dust swirling around supermassive black hole
22.02.2018 | Royal Astronomical Society

nachricht UMass Amherst physicists contribute to dark matter detector success
22.02.2018 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stiffness matters

22.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Magnetic field traces gas and dust swirling around supermassive black hole

22.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals

22.02.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>