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Interstellar Dust


Interstellar dust was first discovered by German-made dust detectors on the Ulysses spacecraft in 1993 and later confirmed by the Galileo mission to Jupiter.

Stardust will collect these interstellar particles that came more recently to our solar system from interstellar space. Scientists believe that they contain heavy chemical elements originated in stars. Since every atom in our bodies came from the inside of stars, by thoroughly studying this interstellar dust scientists hope to learn more about our cosmic roots.

A Dust Flux Monitor Instrument (DFMI) on Stardust will be used to monitor interstellar dust particle encounters. In addition, a Cometary and Interstellar Dust Analyzer instrument (CIDA) will intercept and perform real-time compositional analysis on this dust. The findings of both instruments will be sent back to Earth for further analysis.

The Stardust spacecraft will return to the Earth in January of 2006 and parachute the samples back, using a streamlined, low-cost reentry capsule. The canister will then be transported to the planetary materials curatorial facility at Johnson Space Center for further analysis.

Last updated November 26, 2003
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