August 1, 2014.
NASA’s Stardust mission (1999 - 2006) returned physical samples of the particles ejected by the comet 81P/Wild 2, collected in ultralight and extremely low density aerogel. These samples have been extensively analyzed using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), among other techniques, to determine the elemental, chemical and mineralogical composition of Wild 2. Because comets are thought to be formed in the icy outer regions of the solar system, billions of years ago, the Stardust data gives us details of the composition of the ancient solar system and its subsequent evolution. One of the surprises to come out of the data is the presence of Calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs). CAIs are composed of exotic minerals that form at very high temperatures, in stark contrast to the icy conditions beyond the orbit of Neptune. To date, only a small handful of CAIs have been found in Wild 2. My summer research has been to organize some of the Stardust XRF data into a “datamine-able” format, in order to search more efficiently for the presence of additional CAIs
Cosmochemistry | The Sun and the Solar System
Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley (SSL)
This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0952013. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation or the National Science Foundation. This project has also been made possible with support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The STAR program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME) on behalf of the California State University (CSU).