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Stardust-NExT on Its Way to Explore Comet Tempel 1 DENVER, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- On Jan.
Scientists are tracking the violent convulsions in the giant cloud of gas and dust that gave birth to the solar system four and a half billion years ago via a few tiny particles from comet Wild 2.
When comet Holmes unexpectedly erupted in 2007, professional and amateur astronomers around the world turned their telescopes toward the spectacular event. Their quest was to find out why the comet had suddenly exploded.
Having returned the world's first particles from a comet, NASA's Stardust sample return capsule will join the collection of flight icons in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
While their spacecraft's journeys may have taken it more than halfway to Jupiter, members of the Stardust team have lately been doing some roaming of their own. A great deal of the traveling has been to accept awards and receive the accolades of their aerospace and science-oriented peers.
Contrary to expectations for a small icy body, much of the comet dust returned by the Stardust mission formed very close to the young sun and was altered from the solar systemâ€™s early materials.
At first, Stardust was simply retired, sailing the void with nothing to doâ€”but now it is being recycled as "Stardust-NExT," short for New Exploration of Tempel 1. Planetary science professor Joe Veverka of Cornell University is the mission's principal investigator.
NASA said Tuesday it is recycling two used spacecraft to lead new robotic missions to study comets and planets around other stars.
Eleven months ago, NASAâ€™s Stardust mission touched down in the Utah desert with the first solid comet samples ever retrieved from space. Since then, nearly 200 scientists from around the globe have studied the minuscule grains, looking for clues to our solar system.
Just as kits of little plastic bricks can be used to make everything from models of the space shuttle to the statue of liberty, comets are looking more and more like one of nature's toolkits for creating life.
Comet -- A comet is a small body from the outer reaches of the solar system similar to an asteroid but composed of ice. Often described as "dirty snowballs," they are composed largely of carbon dioxide ice, methane ice, and water ice with a mixture of dust and small stony aggregates mixed in. Comets are thought to be small pieces of debris left over from the formation of the solar system, representing a sample of the original composition of the nebula that condensed to form the Sun and all...
- Emitting flashes of light; glittering.