• A TEM study of thermally modified comet 81P/Wild 2 dust particles by interactions with the aerogel matrix during the Stardust capture process

      Leroux, H.; Rietmeijer, F. J. M.; Velbel, M. A.; Brearley, A. J.; Jacob, D.; Langenhorst, F.; Bridges, J. C.; Zega, T. J.; Stroud, R. M.; Cordier, P.; et al. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      We report the results of high-resolution, analytical and scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), including intensive element mapping, of severely thermally modified dust from comet 81P/Wild 2 caught in the silica aerogel capture cells of the Stardust mission. Thermal interactions during capture caused widespread melting of cometary silicates, Fe-Ni-S phases, and the aerogel. The characteristic assemblage of thermally modified material consists of a vesicular, silica-rich glass matrix with abundant Fe-Ni-S droplets, the latter of which exhibit a distinct core-mantle structure with a metallic Fe,Ni core and a iron-sulfide rim. Within the glassy matrix, the elemental distribution is highly heterogeneous. Localized amorphous dust-rich patches contain Mg, Al, and Ca in higher abundances and suggest incomplete mixing of silicate progenitors with molten aerogel. In some cases, the element distribution within these patches seems to depict the outlines of ghost mineral assemblages, allowing the reconstruction of the original mineralogy. A few crystalline silicates survived with alteration limited to the grain rims. The Fe- and CI-normalized bulk composition derived from several sections show CI-chondrite relative abundances for Mg, Al, S, Ca, Cr, Mn, Fe, and Ni. The data indicate a 5 to 15% admixture of fine-grained chondritic comet dust with the silica glass matrix. These strongly thermally modified samples could have originated from a finegrained primitive material, loosely bound Wild 2 dust aggregates, which were heated and melted more efficiently than the relatively coarse-grained material of the crystalline particles found elsewhere in many of the same Stardust aerogel tracks (Zolensky et al. 2006).
    • Dust from comet Wild 2: Interpreting particle size, shape, structure, and composition from impact features on the Stardust aluminum foils

      Kearsley, A. T.; Borg, J.; Graham, G. A.; Burchell, M. J.; Cole, M. J.; Leroux, H.; Bridges, J. C.; Hörz, F.; Wozniakiewicz, P. J.; Bland, P. A.; et al. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      Aluminum foils of the Stardust cometary dust collector are peppered with impact features of a wide range of sizes and shapes. By comparison to laboratory shots of known particle dimensions and density, using the same velocity and incidence geometry as the Stardust Wild 2 encounter, we can derive size and mass of the cometary dust grains. Using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of foil samples (both flown on the mission and impacted in the laboratory) we have recognized a range of impact feature shapes from which we interpret particle density and internal structure. We have documented composition of crater residues, including stoichiometric material in 3 of 7 larger craters,by energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis. Wild 2 dust grains include coarse (>10 micrometers) mafic silicate grains, some dominated by a single mineral species of density around 34 g cm^(-3) (such as olivine). Other grains were porous, low-density aggregates from a few nanometers to 100 micrometers, with an overall density that may be lower than 1 g cm^(-3), containing mixtures of silicates and sulfides and possibly both alkali-rich and mafic glass. The mineral assemblage is very similar to the most common species reported from aerogel tracks. In one large aggregate crater, the combined diverse residue composition is similar to CI chondrites. The foils are a unique collecting substrate, revealing that the most abundant Wild 2 dust grains were of sub-micrometer size and of complex internal structure. Impact residues in Stardust foil craters will be a valuable resource for future analyses of cometary dust.