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Stardust Status Report
February 7, 2006

Dr. Peter Tsou
Stardust Deputy Principal Investigator

It has been 3 weeks since landing!

Based upon an initial X-Ray Tomography (XT) examination of the quickstone - a particle track removed from an aerogel fragment with an ultrasonic blade - the bifurcated track (2 tracks as shown in Photo 1) is now determined to be "pentafurcated" (5 tracks) since three more smaller tracks have been identified. With the XT, we will have a solid digital model of the quickstone and be able to view the entire track from all directions on a computer screen. This is especially important in identifying sizes of grains scattered along the track (down to 0.1 microns) and their precise locations.

On January 19th, 2006, we released the first picture of a particle (shown in Photo 2) taken in situ of the aerogel. We have now made a keystone of the track (shown in Photo 3). The particle and its track removed from an aerogel fragment with an automated keystone system. This keystone can now be conveniently transported and placed into various analytical instruments to study its properties.

The Preliminary Examination Team will be gathered in the Stardust Cleanroom on February 9 to begin the second cell extraction cycle. The Team has looked at some of the removed small particles and found the entry fragments are melted more so than the particles further down the track. This was as expected. The Team will remove some of the larger particles to determine how well the grains had survived. The Team will also remove a few grains from the largest tracks to determine their compositions.


Aerogel slice removed with an ultrasonic blade, showing particle tracks
Photo 1: Aerogel slice removed with an ultrasonic blade, showing particle tracks.
Comet particle in aeorgel
Photo 2: Comet particle in aerogel.
A 'keystone' cut of aerogel showing particle and track
Photo 3: A "keystone" cut of aerogel showing particle and track.

Last Updated: February 7, 2006
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