On discovery with virtual microscopes

The probe Stardust will bring dust particles from the comet Wild-2 to the earth. To discover them in the detector, the NASA scientists are addressed by the employees of Internet users

On the 15th. January will release the NASA probe Stardust as intended to release the container with the collected samples, which should then land on a US Air Force Point in Utah. Started is the probe remaining in the sunbit and thus remain usable, to your flight 1999 and has now brought 4.6 billion kilometers behind. The valuable wiring should have collected dust from the comet Wild-2 and interstellar dust particles.

On 2. January 2004 Stardust flew past the comet Wild-2 and made this picture. Photo: NASA

If the landing succeeds, dust particles have been analyzed by a comet on earth for the first time (constructive paranoia). Even if everything has gone well so far, there is still a risk. The container capsule will land like the probe Genesis with a parachute. At Genesis, this did not work. The probe rooted in September 2004. However, apparently the samples collected by the sun could be saved from the solar wind.

Should the Stardust retention with the samples relate safely on earth, the analysis of how researchers hope to gain valuable insights over the emergence of the solar system, but also about those of life. Overall, Stardust may bring a milligram on matter the tiny dust particles caught in the aerogel to the earth. However, a remote analysis has already been made with SIDA (Cometary and Interstellar Dust Analyzer), a technology developed in Germany. In this beat dust particles in flying on the instrument and disintegrate into their molecules. With a detector, the mass spectrum is measured. From the analysis of only two ions, the scientists conclude that the particles, as suspected, are built mainly from coal tests:

The wild particles were particularly rich in nitrogen and sulfur, while oxygen rarely was and water was missing: in the 20 to 60 minutes, which the dust particles for the path from the core to Cida had already, most of the cursive gases had already left the particles. Also absent were Z.B. Aminosaurs: The organic matter in comets may have helped in the emergence of life on earth, but they did not provide for finished building blocks.

However, a more accurate evaluation is expected from the analysis of the particles caught in the aerogel. How many are exactly, is unknown, one expects relatively few tiny particles. These have left a relatively long gear in their impact in the aerogel, but they have also changed by heating during drilling, because they are lost cureted components. Before the analysis, the tiny particles have to be found in the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector (SIDC) first. To do this, high-resolution microscopes are necessary, but they open only a tiny field of vision.

A particle caught in aerogel. Photo: NASA

In order to probably 1.5 million digital images made by the one square decimal gross collector and each cover a flat in the coarse of a salt grain, browsing to find the impact canal, ask the scientists to use internet users. The NASA researchers are currently expecting 45 particles that are now looking for the famous needle in the haystack. This will be compared to the task of finding 45 ants on a fubball field, which is examined in dating of 5 square centimeters.

A further picture of Wild-2, from the StarDust camera from a distance of 500 kilometers. Photo: NASA

With a collective work can, similar to SETI @ home, the pictures are searched faster (and cheaper). In this case, the Internet users do not provide computation time, but their own time. At least 30.000 working hours are necessary, especially since the pictures are to be reviewed several times, say the operators of Stardust @ home from the University of Berthy. But do not participate. First, a test must be molded on the Internet. If you passed this and demonstrated his quiable, you can download a virtual microscope and look at pictures. From the 1. Marz should be the first pictures available and on the 1. Okrober wants to have completed the search. To reward the cooperation, the flibists are turned out. And who found a particle goes into the scientific Olympus, because he is called as a co-author in publications.

If the image analysis with the virtual microscopes, the track of a particle was discovered, the work of the responsible scientists begins. They must take the tracks to the particle and can then analyze the particle.

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