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NASA Needs Your Help to Examine Particles Retrieved by the Stardust Spacecraft !   Logged in as: Guest
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NASA Needs Your Help to Examine Particles Retrieved by ... - 1/17/2006 12:10:13 PM   
SiliconFreak


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Now you can take an active part in NASA's research

For anyone that has been following the news for the past few days, NASA's Stardust spacecraft should sound familiar. Stardust journeyed over two billion miles to rendezvous with Comet Wild 2 and then made a return trip of over 750 million miles to land safely back on Earth this past Sunday.  Comet Wild 2 is believed to be over 4.5 billion years old and has a diameter of about 3 miles.

After the rendezvous with Wild 2, the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector (SIDC) was able to capture dust particles from the comet with a silicon-based solid called Aerogel. This substance allowed the particles which are smaller than a grain of sand to be slowed down from a speed of roughly 21,000MPH to a stop without damaging them. NASA estimates that it was able to capture about 45 dust samples on the SDIC which measures roughly one square foot in size.

Even NASA's powerful software is no match for this daunting task so a trained human eye is the only way to verify and record the retrieved particles. This is where Stardust@Home comes into play:

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 searched to find the interstellar dust grains.

The Stardust@Home project is similar in scope to the SETI@Home project where normally idle time on a person's PC is used to scan data streamed from SETI's radio telescope. In this case, however, people will be asked to actively scan images from the Cosmic Dust Lab at Johnson Space Center with a downloadable virtual microscope.

Not just anyone can have access to the project though. You must first go through a qualification process to determine if your are up to the task. Only then will you have access to the virtual microscope. If you feel that you are game, head on over and pre-register for Stardust@Home.


Source : DailyTech
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