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Comet Tracks
Comet Tracks (click to enlarge)

Comet Tracks
Date: 15 Jan 2006

This image shows the tracks left by two comet particles after they impacted the Stardust spacecraft's comet dust collector. The collector is made up of a low-density glass material called aerogel.

Stardust collected the first samples from a comet and returned them to Earth.

What Scientists/Engineers Say About This Image:

"In my field, the most significant robotic mission was the Stardust mission to comet Wild 2. By bringing back particles of the comet, we learned that comets are not that fundamentally different from outer belt asteroids. That opened up new ideas about the formation and early evolution of the solar system."

--Peter Jenniskens: Research Scientist, SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center

"In regards to evidence for life in our Universe: Recently, I was speaking with Jason Dworkin (head of astrobiology at Goddard). He showed me some of the aerogel from the Stardust mission that had picked up samples from comet Wild 2. From this comet dust they are isolating little bits of our DNA -- amino acids. Scientists are finding the building blocks of life in these comet samples. It was strange to be sitting in a room with something on the table that had flown through a comet's tail and returned a sample to Earth. It is just mind blowing to think that we have that sort of a connection to our local Universe."

--Michelle Thaller: Assistant Director of Science for Communications, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Credit: NASA/JPL

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Last Updated: 1 Apr 2014