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Stardust@Home - Volunteers Needed

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posted on Jan, 21 2006 @ 02:12 PM
The Space Sciences Lab at Berkeley University is seeking volunteers to assist in scanning the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector (SIDC) for dust particles obtained from the Wild2 comet. Embedded in the aerogel collectors are thought to be millions of macro and microscopic dust particles, obtained from the comet's coma. Pre-registered volunteers, once accepted into the program, will have access to a Virtual Microscope program which will download "focus movies" for pinpointing the location and identification of these particles. They estimate it would take over twenty years without the help of volunteers.
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In January 2004, the Stardust spacecraft flew through the coma of comet Wild2 and captured thousands of cometary dust grains in special aerogel collectors. Two years later, in January 2006, Stardust will return these dust grains --- the first sample return from a solid solar-system body beyond the Moon --- to Earth. But Stardust carries an equally important payload on the opposite side of the cometary collector: the first samples of contemporary interstellar dust ever collected. As well as being the first mission to return samples from a comet, Stardust is the first sample return mission from the Galaxy. But finding the incredibly tiny interstellar dust impacts in the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector (SIDC) will be extremely difficult.

The scientific importance of these first solid samples from our Galaxy can't be overstated. Interstellar dust and gas were the building blocks of our solar system, the Earth, and all living things, including people. We are truly made of stardust. But we don't know what the typical interstellar dust grain looks like. Not even one contemporary interstellar dust grain has ever been studied in the laboratory!

The job is roughly equivalent to searching for 45 ants in an entire football field, one 5cm by 5cm (2 inch by 2 inch) square at a time! More than 1.6 million individual fields of view will have to be searched to find the interstellar dust grains. We estimate that it would take more than twenty years of continuous scanning for us to search the entire collector by ourselves.

That is why WE NEED YOU. Volunteers are absolutely critical to the success of this project.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

This will be an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of the world around them, especially the community here at ATS. As with the SETI distributed computing project, the Stardust@Home project allows most anyone* to play an active role in locating the potential millions of dust particles contained in the Aerogel collectors.

The importance of this sampling, from the Wild2 comet, lies with the fact that it is the first such sample ever returned from a solid body beyond our moon. Actually, the particles contained within the aerogel collectors are not only from the coma of Wild2, but also the first ever particles of interstellar dust collected and returned.

I find it rather amazing that this miniscule sample of comet dust and interstellar particles, with a combined weight of possibly only a few milligrams, holds the potential to restructure the way we look at our origin, the world and universe as a whole.

*Pre-registration is required, and potential volunteers must pass an online test prior to acceptance into the program.

Related News Links:
JPL Stardust Project
Dust from comet is unveiled
Comet sample collection bedazzles scientists

Related Discussion Threads:
NASA needs YOU!

[edit on 1/21/2006 by 12m8keall2c]

[edit on 26-1-2006 by asala]


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