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Spacecraft Returns Seven Particles From Birth of the Solar System

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the science-by-mote dept.

Space 48

sciencehabit writes "After a massive, years-long search, researchers have recovered seven interstellar dust particles returned to Earth by the Stardust spacecraft. The whole sample weighs just a few trillionths of a gram, but it's the first time scientists have laid their hands on primordial material unaltered by the violent birth of the solar system. Once the sample panel was back on Earth, the problem quickly became finding any collected particles embedded in the aerogel. Out of desperation, Stardust team members called on 30,714 members of the general public. The 'dusters' of the Stardust@home project volunteered to examine microscopic images taken down through the aerogel. They used the world's best pattern-recognition system — the human eye and brain — to pick out the telltale tracks left by speeding particles."

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48 comments

From interstellar space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546623)

How do they know it's primordial? I thought only Voyager has left the solar system, and our sun is a second generation star.
Also, how would they distinguish it anyway, the matter has no identity to distinguish it from anything just created in our sun or LHC.

Re: From interstellar space? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546677)

Isotopes. Read the Science article.

Re: From interstellar space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546741)

No thanks, I'd rather read The National Enquirer. It has less sensational hyperbole than Science.

Re: From interstellar space? (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 4 months ago | (#46546825)

No thanks, I'd rather read The National Enquirer. It has less sensational hyperbole than Science.

But, but, but, Weekly World News has Bat Boy!

Re: From interstellar space? (1)

Chelloveck (14643) | about 4 months ago | (#46546925)

But, but, but, Weekly World News has Bat Boy!

What's that you say? NASA has discovered Bat Boy in space? Stop the presses!

Re: From interstellar space? (1)

l0n3s0m3phr34k (2613107) | about 4 months ago | (#46548993)

What's that you say? The NSA was caught spying on Bat Boy?

Re: From interstellar space? (1)

l0n3s0m3phr34k (2613107) | about 4 months ago | (#46548983)

And today apparently WWN has a dinosaur egg that was "frozen" and "thawed out" and hatched...

Re: From interstellar space? (1)

msim (220489) | about 4 months ago | (#46549087)

And MH370 was spotted on the moon!

violent birth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546625)

Quick, find the solar system's unfit mother and throw her ass in jail. For the children.

Project SCOOP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546651)

Better notify Wildfire...

Troll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546661)

Question!

Huh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546681)

Whut?

Eye and brain is NOT the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546745)

Unfortunately the eye and brain are not the best pattern-recognition system. Humans tend to categorise random patterns as non-random patterns that match things they are familiar with or want to see. For example, the face on Mars, astrological patterns in stars, guilt in lie-detector traces, face of Jesus in almost anything, and much much more.

In other words the best (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 4 months ago | (#46546861)

Unfortunately the eye and brain are not the best pattern-recognition system. Humans tend to categorise random patterns as non-random patterns that match things they are familiar with or want to see.

Which means they are the best at seeing patterns.

No-one ever said anything about ACCURATE patterns... :-)

I would argue for this kind of search that just seeing any kind of pattern has value in narrowing things down, even if it's false.

the best pattern-recognition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46548873)

I have seen is when I'm on LSD.

Re:Eye and brain is NOT the best (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 4 months ago | (#46547147)

True, but while a hawk would survey more data at a time, they couldn't find a room with a high enough ceiling.

Saturn's Rings! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546803)

had a violent origin [sciencemag.org] , suggests Action Science Magazine!!!!!!!!! [sciencemag.org]

Re:Saturn's Rings! (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 4 months ago | (#46546817)

Look at all those exclamation marks! What would Terry Pratchett think of you?

Re:Saturn's Rings! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546837)

I'm pants-on-head passionate about satirizing Action Science Magazine tabloid journalism!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Astrophysics humour... (2)

rts008 (812749) | about 4 months ago | (#46546875)

FTA:

Two particles weighing in at about 3 trillionths of a gram each...[...]...âoeIt would be very easy to lose them.â

Well, not quite ready for 'Night at the Improv', worth a grin anyhow.

Only two particles out of only seven impacts, over 200 days shows just how 'empty'[1] space really is.

[1] 'empty' space can be surprisingly a deceptive statement in astrophysics, though...:-)

Gah, slashcode mangled the double parenthesis again!
When do we get proper unicode support?

Re:Astrophysics humour... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46546891)

Gah, slashcode mangled the double parenthesis again!
When do we get proper unicode support?

Have you submitted a patch?

Re:Astrophysics humour... (4, Interesting)

MacTO (1161105) | about 4 months ago | (#46547239)

Empty? We are talking about the Solar System here. Even if you ignore the Sun and planets, this place is remarkably full. This sample from STARDUST demonstrates just how incredibly full it is.

(No sarcasm intended. A lot of the matter out there is in the form of an incredibly tenuous gas rather than particles.)

Re:Astrophysics humour... (1)

rts008 (812749) | about 4 months ago | (#46549833)

You apparently overlooked the '...' around 'empty', and the note[1], where I said that 'empty' is a deceptive description of space to astrophysisists.

What I was alluding to was the average Joe picturing vast volumes of space as being empty of stuff that can be detected with the human eye in context to TFA talking about using the human eye and brain in searching out these particles collected in the aerogell.

As far as space being actually mostly empty, that is not true. it is chock full of stuff, mostly requiring dectors that far exceed human eyesight.

Quarks, gluons, nuetrinos, leptons, dark matter, black holes, most wavelenghts of EM radiation, gravity, the 'fabric' of space time, many more are crammed int the volume of what would look to a human using the good old 'Eyeball, Mark 1' as a mostly empty void.
Most layman/people only beleive in what they can see, but that is only the barest 'tip of the iceberg' to what's actually out there.

'Tenous gas', various EM radiation, sub atomic particles, 'dark matter, etc. and ad nausem and quantam foam, and more are all presented as theories.
Taken altogether, 'empty' space is actually more crowded than a Tokyo subway during rush hour, and busier than a one-armed paper hanger.

I do actually agree with you, but I was trying to play to a more 'layman/mainstream' crowd, and tried to give the more knowledgable here acknowledgement that it was far from 'empty'

Sorry I failed to make that clear. :-)
But then again, because I like to stir the mudpuddles....;-)

Look at how 'empty' aerogel is: 99.8% 'empty space', and how much 'empty space' there is in an atom.

Re: Astrophysics humour... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46547947)

With Beta...

Re:Astrophysics humour... (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 4 months ago | (#46550469)

Only two particles out of only seven impacts, over 200 days shows just how 'empty'[1] space really is.

Here's hoping I recover some nerdcred after yesterday's Sherlock/Mycroft disaster:

"We Analyze Nothing."

Big bad bunnies (3, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 months ago | (#46546943)

I've got dust particles from the origin of the solar system under my bed.

I'm pretty sure that was the last time anybody cleaned under there.

Re:Big bad bunnies (1)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 4 months ago | (#46547019)

Since matter is neither created nor destroyed - it merely changes shape - everything is as old as the universe. We are all stardust.

Re:Big bad bunnies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46547597)

Since matter is neither created nor destroyed

Most matter isn't, but some is, hence E=mc^2 .

Re:Big bad bunnies (1)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 4 months ago | (#46548021)

There is no physical process which starts off with X matter and ends with more or less than X matter. That equation just points out the energy (aka potential for work) that a certain amount of mass has. Energy isn't a thing, it is a property of matter.

Re:Big bad bunnies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46548385)

Annihilate an electron with mass 0.511 MeV with a positron with mass 0.511 MeV, and you get two photons with 0.511 MeV of energy and zero mass. Total energy conserved.

Now take two protons with a buttload of kinetic energy and smash them into each other. You get out a lot more mass than you started with. Total energy still conserved.

Re:Big bad bunnies (1)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 4 months ago | (#46548453)

True, that's mass though. Mass isn't the same thing as matter. I'm considering the electrons, positrons, photons, etc. to all be matter.

Re:Big bad bunnies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46548581)

While the electron and positron are in fact matter, the photon is not.
If you redefine energy to be matter, I guess energy isn't a thing anymore, so then you would be correct.
You can eliminate the photon from the system, and still annihilate matter to generate kinetic energy. In that case, the matter has gone down, the energy has gone up to replace the lost matter, and there aren't any stray photons.
The sum of rest mass and energy is effectively constant though (you can borrow mass and energy from quantum processes, but not in large quantities or not for a long time).

Re:Big bad bunnies (2)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 4 months ago | (#46549665)

The last hundred plus years of science defines matter and energy as different, denies the previously held law of conservation of matter, and instead uses the law of conservation of matter-energy. It's time for you to update your definitions.

Then what? (1)

MattGWU (86623) | about 4 months ago | (#46547007)

What will they do with the particles once they locate them? What sort of useful information could you glean or experiments could you perform on something like that?

Re:Then what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46548227)

I used to be a space freak, since moderated by more practical concerns. But if there's ever going to be an interstellar flight by a probe, we must understand the hazards of near-relativistic flight. One hazard is the impact of the average interstellar dust grain. We need to understand what the "average interstellar dust grain" is. I've done some calculations on what's understood so far, and a manned flight seems prohibitive, since it would have to be going so fast (0.3-0.8 of c) that the energy delivery of the average dust grain is really catastrophic. I really can't imagine what sort of shield that can be constructed that would allow that sort of energy delivery in such a tiny cross-section to be dispersed in such a way that spares the crew as well as the ship's basic structure. I've been trying to find the early publications of the British Interplanetary Society for certain articles, largely without success (for free or a modest fee, anyway), to locate articles making claims about erosion-shield construction. I find their claims (via other publications quoting them) to be specious and I'm hungry to know more.

Re:Then what? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#46548309)

I used to be a space freak, since moderated by more practical concerns.

Translation: My wife doesn't allow that shit any more.

But if there's ever going to be an interstellar flight by a probe, we must understand the hazards of near-relativistic flight. One hazard is the impact of the average interstellar dust grain. We need to understand what the "average interstellar dust grain" is. I've done some calculations on what's understood so far, and a manned flight seems prohibitive, since it would have to be going so fast (0.3-0.8 of c) that the energy delivery of the average dust grain is really catastrophic. I really can't imagine what sort of shield that can be constructed that would allow that sort of energy delivery in such a tiny cross-section to be dispersed in such a way that spares the crew as well as the ship's basic structure. I've been trying to find the early publications of the British Interplanetary Society for certain articles, largely without success (for free or a modest fee, anyway), to locate articles making claims about erosion-shield construction. I find their claims (via other publications quoting them) to be specious and I'm hungry to know more.

And that's too bad, because it sounds like you have something to contribute.

Re:Then what? (1)

l0n3s0m3phr34k (2613107) | about 4 months ago | (#46549023)

perhaps several feet of Aerogel, with electric reactive armour underneath that? Or some type of meta-material that can "channel" the impact energy towards a non ship impacting angle. It doesn't have to miss the ship by much, and if we had some weird lattice structure that could deflect the momentum just enough so it misses...but yeah, anything going that fast will probably need a few hundred feet thick armour encasing it, especially if we're sending a ship into another solar system. If your going any significant speed into a planetary system as soon as you hit the targets "Oort Cloud" no materials we have can withstand even a marble hitting it at .1C

Re:Then what? (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 4 months ago | (#46550537)

. I really can't imagine what sort of shield that can be constructed that would allow that sort of energy delivery in such a tiny cross-section to be dispersed in such a way that spares the crew as well as the ship's basic structure.

I believe Scotty would like a word or two with you. Are you the same fellow who called his ship a garbage scow?

Re:Then what? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#46550855)

I really can't imagine what sort of shield that can be constructed that would allow that sort of energy delivery in such a tiny cross-section to be dispersed in such a way that spares the crew as well as the ship's basic structure.

The ship will need fuel for its fusion reactor, which will most likely be deuterium. Deuterium freezes at about 18K, and deep space is about 4K. So you can use the big chunk of frozen D2 as your shield. For a large crewed colony ship, this would be millions, or even billions of tonnes of D2. Another idea is to put your reactor right on the nose of your space ship. Then instead of using a tokamak or inertial confinement, you use the impact of the incoming gas/particles to induce fusion.

   

Re:Then what? (1)

davewoods (2450314) | about 4 months ago | (#46603499)

you use the impact of the incoming gas/particles to induce fusion.

Very clever, but how do you get started?

Religious Relics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46547069)

This is starting to sound similar to religious relics. Maybe they could put the particles on display and devotees can pay an arm and a leg to be in the same room as the sacred dust motes.

Re:Religious Relics (1)

Black.Shuck (704538) | about 4 months ago | (#46547591)

... devotees can pay an arm and a leg to be in the same room as the sacred dust motes.

Only if they're suspended in a Sun-beam!

Paging Dr. Stone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46548863)

...Dr. Jeremy Stone...

Fuck Wrong ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46549003)

Just Shit from NASA Goddard that got splattered pre-flight and now returned.

Fuckers.

webdesigningcompanyinchennai (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46550567)

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Other particules found (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46550939)

See U at the B.g B.ng .urg.r H.u.e!

Perspective (A week later) (2)

davewoods (2450314) | about 3 months ago | (#46604955)

The microscopic images shown are roughly double the width of the average human hair (170 um). And the dust particle you are looking for in that picture is about the diameter of a human red blood cell (7 um).
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