Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Latest Stardust Stories

2007-09-27 08:42:16

The flash! The dazzle! The front page of the New York Times! Two years ago, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft dropped an 820 lb copper projectile onto Comet Tempel 1, unleashing an explosion that made headlines around the world. Exploding comets tend to have that effect. But how many people know what happened after the blast? The surprising answer is none--not even NASA. Deep Impact's prime mission was to punch a hole in Tempel 1 and look inside, giving researchers their first glimpse of a...

2007-08-22 12:45:00

Observational and theoretical studies of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the target of ESA's Rosetta mission, are building a detailed portrait of the comet's nucleus as it travels around the Sun. Observations of the comet using the 8.2 m-ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) show an irregularly-shaped object that is about 4.6 kilometres in diameter with a rotational period of 12 hours 49 minutes.  Ms Cecilia Tubiana, who will be presenting results at the second European Planetary Science...

2007-07-04 00:00:00

LOS ANGELES -- NASA said Tuesday it is recycling two used spacecraft to lead new robotic missions to study comets and planets around other stars. The encore performances of the Deep Impact and Stardust probes allow the space agency to further its solar system exploration for a fraction of the cost it would take to start a mission from scratch. Both spacecraft successfully completed their primary missions to two different comets and their discoveries have helped scientists understand how the...

2007-03-09 10:35:00

A menacing lump of rock and dust in space called 10195 (1999 RQ36) would barely be noticed except for two crucial facts: First, "It's a treasure trove of organic material, so it holds clues to how Earth formed and life got started," said Joseph Nuth of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Second, it regularly crosses Earth's orbit, so it might impact us someday. Nuth is Project Scientist for the proposed OSIRIS mission, which will "return a pristine sample of the scientifically...

2006-12-18 19:30:00

Washington, D.C. "“ Eleven months ago, NASA'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 the physical and chemical history of our solar system. Although years of work remain to fully decipher the secrets of comet Wild 2, researchers are sure that it contains some of the most primitive and exotic chemical...

2006-12-14 14:25:00

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. These chunks of ice and dust wandering our solar system appear to be filled with organic molecules that are the building blocks of life. The discovery of two kinds of nitrogen-rich organic molecules in comet Wild 2 is the latest addition to the set of bits and pieces useful to the...

2006-07-17 11:40:15

Scientists are getting their best understanding yet of the makeup of comets - not only of the materials inside these planetary building blocks, but also of the way they could have formed around the Sun in the solar system's earliest years. When NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft slammed into comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005, the collision sent tons of pristine materials into space and gave astronomers from around the world, using ground- and space-based telescopes, the first look "inside" a comet....

2006-06-14 17:35:00

LOS ANGELES -- A report released Tuesday blamed a design flaw for the 2004 crash of a NASA space probe carrying solar wind atoms back to Earth and criticized engineers for failing to detect the error. The 231-page document prepared by independent investigators found that gravity switches on the Genesis probe designed to trigger the deployment of its parachutes were installed backward. Genesis' chutes never opened and it slammed into the Utah desert on Sept. 8, 2004, after a three-year mission...

2006-04-24 08:55:00

Over the past five years, three space missions -- Deep Impact, Deep Space 1 and Stardust -- have provided unprecedented information about comets. However, rather than clearing up the true nature of comets, the sometimes conflicting data from these missions have scientists questioning almost everything they thought they knew about these fascinating, and potentially dangerous, objects. Now, the University of Maryland-led team that produced the spectacular Deep Impact mission is proposing two...

2006-03-14 06:45:00

SPACE CENTER, Houston -- NASA scientists have a new mystery to solve: How did materials formed by fire end up on the outermost reaches of the solar system, where temperatures are the coldest? The materials were contained in dust samples captured when the robotic Stardust spacecraft flew past the comet Wild 2 in 2004. A 100-pound capsule tied to a parachute returned the samples to Earth in January. The samples include minerals such as anorthite, which is made up of calcium, sodium, aluminum...

Latest Stardust Reference Libraries

2004-10-19 04:45:41

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...

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