Thursday, January 26, 2006

Get Ready to Hunt for Stardust

The Stardust Spacecraft recently returned from its mission in which it used special aerogel collectors to capture thousands of cometary dust particles from the comet Wild 2. The opposite side of the collector was used to obtain samples of contemporary interstellar dust particles. The task will now be to find the particles.
"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!"

From Stardust@Home:
The only way that we can think of to find these exciting interstellar dust grains is to recruit talented volunteers to help us search. First, you will go through a web-based training session. This is not for everyone: you must pass a test to qualify to register to participate. After passing the test and registering, you will be able to download a virtual microscope (VM). The VM will automatically connect to our server and download so-called "focus movies" -- stacks of images that we will collect from the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector using an automated microscope at the Cosmic Dust Lab at Johnson Space Center. The VM will work on your computer, under your control. You will search each field for interstellar dust impacts by focusing up and down with a focus control.

The Stardust@home website will include a list of top participants.
In recognition of the critical importance of the Stardust@home volunteers, the discoverer of an interstellar dust particle will appear as a co-author on any scientific paper by the Stardust@home collaboration announcing the discovery of the particle.

Here is the main site to get more information and to sign up for an email when the project begins.



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