Seven possible interstellar dust grains have been found by Stardust@home, a citizen scientist project that The Planetary Society helped out early on. The dust grains would be the first ever examples of contemporary interstellar dust.
It's been a very full day at the DPS-EPSC 2011 joint meeting. My day was less full than it might have been, because I overslept and missed most of the morning's session. I really needed the rest though so I think it was probably for the best!
Citizen Science projects let volunteers easily contribute to active science programs. They're useful when there is so much data it overwhelms computing algorithms (if they exist) or the scientific research team attempting to process it.
April 2011 will see MESSENGER begin the science phase of its orbital mission at Mercury, and should, I think, also see the start of Dawn's approach observations of Vesta. At Mars, Opportunity is back on the road again, rolling inexorably toward Endeavour. At Saturn, Cassini will continue its focus on Saturn and Titan science.
So, it's over. Stardust's last transmission to Earth was yesterday, March 24, 2011 at 23:33 UTC. Its final act was to burn up all of its last remaining fuel, a move intended to help engineers validate their guesses for how much fuel actually remained in the tanks.
Since Stardust is being decommissioned today I thought it'd be fitting to take a look back at one of its data sets. I hadn't fiddled with the Annefrank data set before, and it was small and easy to deal with.
What's that in my eye? Must be a piece of stardust that's making my eyes water as I read that Stardust will be given its very last command tomorrow, a command that'll end its long life, but give its builders one more piece of valuable data in the process.
According to the Stardust website, the spacecraft has continued taking navigational camera images of Tempel 1 since last Monday's flyby. But "This will end with a Navcam calibration that will take place [today]. This will be the end of the official Tempel 1 encounter activities. Planning is under way for the decommissioning of the spacecraft."
Here's two more items from Tuesday's flyby of comet Tempel 1 by the Stardust spacecraft to add to my previous roundup of Tempel 1 data. The first represents data from a dust counting instrument, portrayed as sound, and the second is a terrific morph animation of the flyby produced by Daniel Macháček.
I really didn't expect these images to look so good! I'd prepared myself for blurry images and a lot of squinting to try to match up features in pictures between Deep Impact and Stardust views of Tempel 1, but in fact the resemblance is obvious and you can clearly see that they successfully imaged the area in which Deep Impact's Impactor craft collided with the comet.