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Probe captures first instellar space dust

Posted on Monday, 18 August, 2014 | Comment icon 10 comments

The probe set out to collect particles from a comet. Image Credit: NASA/JPL
NASA's Stardust spacecraft is now believed to have picked up particles from outside the solar system
Launched back in 1999, the Stardust probe was designed to rendezvous with the comet Wild 2, pick up samples of dust and then return those to the Earth for study.

Everything went according to plan with the probe reaching the comet in 2004 and parachuting back down to Earth in 2006. Scientists have since been examining its payload in an effort to learn more about the formation of the solar system.

Stardust however also managed to capture something else that scientists have only recently been able to tease from its collectors - seven tiny particles that appear to have come from beyond our own solar system. It is believed that these were picked up when the probe was turned to face the region of space in to which particles from interstellar space were thought to be streaming.

The discovery of these tiny particles represents the very first time that scientists have had the opportunity to examine dust from outside our own solar system and will hopefully go on to yield important new clues about the nature and composition of our local cosmic neighborhood.

Source: National Geographic | Comments (10)

Tags: Stardust, Comet

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by UFO_Monster on 19 August, 2014, 3:00
On a grand scale, how significant of a step is this in terms of space exploration?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 19 August, 2014, 6:41
In terms of space exploration not that significant. In terms of astronomy highly significant. These particles give astronomers a chance to analyse material from beyond the solar system for the first time. It will help them better understand the material which formed the sun, earth and planets 4.5 billion years ago.
Comment icon #3 Posted by taniwha on 19 August, 2014, 8:39
Eight years is an extraordinary length of time only to find three dust particles.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Silent Trinity on 19 August, 2014, 9:03
Significant find! Another milestone, and hopefully another window into the currently unreachable expanses of the universe for us....
Comment icon #5 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 19 August, 2014, 10:01
No, 8 years is an extraordinarily short amount of time to analyse such small samples with enough precision and accuracy to deduce that they have an interstellar origin.
Comment icon #6 Posted by lightly on 19 August, 2014, 14:41
Not to minimize the discovery and the chance to examine such particles , but I would think that every particle composing the bodies in our solar system, before it's formation, had at one time existed "outside" of it ?
Comment icon #7 Posted by taniwha on 19 August, 2014, 15:26
Correct. But now we know for sure which is more important than thinking we know for sure. Science works in round-about ways.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 19 August, 2014, 20:47
Whilst that is true, all the comets, planets, asteroids, moons and the sun were formed from the same cloud of dust and gas at the same time, hence all the material in the solar system is from the same region of space. Analysis of any solar system material can tell us a great deal about the conditions when and where the solar system was born but nothing about the rest of the galaxy. Interstellar particles will have come from different regions of space. They may well be vastly different in age to the material that formed the solar system. Analysis of such material can tell us much, for example... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by lightly on 20 August, 2014, 0:11
ah.. thanks a lot Waspie, Great explanation , i understand the importance much better now .

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