Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Comet's Dust Clouds Hit NASA Spacecraft 'Like Thunderbolt'

Date:
June 21, 2004
Source:
University Of Chicago
Summary:
Two swarms of microscopic cometary dust blasted NASA's Stardust spacecraft in short but intense bursts as it approached within 150 miles of Comet Wild 2 last January, data from a University of Chicago instrument flying aboard the spacecraft has revealed.

Two swarms of microscopic cometary dust blasted NASA's Stardust spacecraft in short but intense bursts as it approached within 150 miles of Comet Wild 2 last January, data from a University of Chicago instrument flying aboard the spacecraft has revealed.

Related Articles


"These things were like a thunderbolt," said Anthony Tuzzolino, a Senior Scientist at the University of Chicago's Enrico Fermi Institute. "I didn't anticipate running into this kind of show." Tuzzolino and Thanasis Economou, also a Senior Scientist at the Fermi Institute, will report their findings in the June 17 issue of the journal Science.

The materials streaming from a comet range in size from particles that could fit on the head of a pin to boulders the size of a truck. Stardust mission planners correctly estimated that their spacecraft could safely avoid the hazardous larger objects by passing the comet at a distance of approximately 150 miles and using very effective dust particle shields.

Based on the data collected by the Dust Flux Monitor Instrument, Tuzzolino and Economou estimate that NASA achieved its goal of collecting at least 1,000 samples measuring at least one-third the width of a human hair or larger during the flyby.

The Stardust spacecraft is scheduled to return the samples to Earth in January 2006. Scientists will study the samples, the first ever returned to Earth from a comet, for insights into the early history of the solar system.

The Dust Flux Monitor Instrument collected data for 30 minutes when the spacecraft passed closest to the comet last Jan. 2. Stardust encountered the first swarm of dust particles when the spacecraft passed within 146.5 miles of the comet's nucleus. The monitor detected a second intense swarm after passing the comet when the spacecraft was approximately 2,350 miles from the nucleus.

"We believe that we see fragmentation of large dust lumps into swarms of small particles after they are coming out from the nucleus," Economou said.

In between the particle swarms, the impact of which lasted just a few seconds each, the dust monitor went for periods of several minutes before it detected another particle.

This isn't Tuzzolino's first encounter with a comet, though it is by far the closest. He helped design, build and test the Dust Counter and Mass Analyzer instrument that passed Comet Halley at a distance of 5,000 miles or more in 1986 aboard two Soviet Vega spacecraft. Halley had emitted a spray of dust "much smoother" than that of Wild 2, Tuzzolino recalled.

"In general, one thinks of a comet as emitting gas and dust in a nice, uniform steady state, sort of like a hose," he said. Halley did show fluctuations, "but not to this extent."

The dust monitor detected its first impact when Stardust was 1,010 miles from the cometary nucleus. The last impact was recorded at a distance of 3,500 miles as the spacecraft sped away. During one intense event, the dust monitor detected more than 1,100 impacts in one second. The largest particle measured during the cometary flyby measured an estimated 500ths of an inch in diameter.

A similar instrument to the University of Chicago Dust Flux Monitor Instrument is a component on NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn. Cassini's High-Rate Detector, which Tuzzolino also built, is part of a larger instrument, Germany's Cosmic Dust Analyzer, which will study the ice and dust particles that form the major components of Saturn's ring system. Cassini is scheduled to become the first spacecraft ever to orbit Saturn on June 30.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Chicago. "Comet's Dust Clouds Hit NASA Spacecraft 'Like Thunderbolt'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 June 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040618070736.htm>.
University Of Chicago. (2004, June 21). Comet's Dust Clouds Hit NASA Spacecraft 'Like Thunderbolt'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040618070736.htm
University Of Chicago. "Comet's Dust Clouds Hit NASA Spacecraft 'Like Thunderbolt'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040618070736.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

What's Up March 2015

What's Up March 2015

NASA (Mar. 4, 2015) — A total solar eclipse in the North Atlantic and tips to prepare for the next U.S. eclipse. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: SpaceX Launches Rocket, Satellites on Board

Raw: SpaceX Launches Rocket, Satellites on Board

AP (Mar. 2, 2015) — SpaceX launched it&apos;s 16th Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Sunday night. The rocket was carrying two commercial communications satellites. (March 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA EDGE: SMAP Launch

NASA EDGE: SMAP Launch

NASA (Mar. 2, 2015) — Join NASA EDGE as they cover the launch of the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) spacecraft live from Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Special guests include NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, SMAP Project System Engineer Shawn Goodman and Lt Col Brande Walton and Joseph Sims from the Air Force.  No word on the Co-Host&apos;s whereabouts. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Astronauts Leave Space Station for Third Spacewalk

Astronauts Leave Space Station for Third Spacewalk

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 1, 2015) — NASA Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts perform their third spacewalk in eight days outside the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins