• Discovery of non-random spatial distribution of impacts in the Stardust cometary collector

      Westphal, A. J.; Bastien, R. K.; Borg, J.; Bridges, J.; Brownlee, D. E.; Burchell, M. J.; Cheng, A. F.; Clark, B. C.; Djouadi, Z.; Floss, C.; et al. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      We report the discovery that impacts in the Stardust cometary collector are not distributed randomly in the collecting media, but appear to be clustered on scales smaller than ~10 cm. We also report the discovery of at least two populations of oblique tracks. We evaluate several hypotheses that could explain the observations. No hypothesis is consistent with all the observations, but the preponderance of evidence points toward at least one impact on the central Whipple shield of the spacecraft as the origin of both clustering and low-angle oblique tracks. High-angle oblique tracks unambiguously originate from a non-cometary impact on the spacecraft bus just forward of the collector.
    • 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.
    • Stardust in Stardust—The C, N, and O isotopic compositions of Wild 2 cometary matter in Al foil impacts

      Stadermann, F. J.; Hoppe, P.; Floss, C.; Heck, P. R.; Hörz, F.; Huth, J.; Kearsley, A. T.; Leitner, J.; Marhas, K. K.; McKeegan, K. D.; et al. (The Meteoritical Society, 2008-01-01)
      In January 2006, the Stardust mission successfully returned dust samples from the tail of comet 81P/Wild 2 in two principal collection media, low-density silica aerogel and Al foil. While hypervelocity impacts at the Stardust encounter velocity of 6.1 km/s into Al foils are generally highly disruptive for natural, silicate-dominated impactors, previous studies have shown that many craters retain sufficient residue to allow a determination of the elemental and isotopic compositions of the original projectile. We have used two NanoSIMS ion microprobes to perform degrees C, N, and O isotope imaging measurements on four large (59-295 micrometers in diameter) and on 47 small (0.32-1.9 micrometers in diameter) Al-foil impact craters as part of the Stardust preliminary examination (PE). Most analyzed residues in and around these craters are isotopically normal (solar) in their degrees C, N, and O isotopic compositions. However, the debris in one large crater shows an average 15N enrichment of ~450, which is similar to the bulk composition of some isotopically primitive interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) and to components of some primitive meteorites. A 250 nm grain in another large crater has an 17O enrichment with ~2.65 times the solar 17O/16O ratio. Such an O isotopic composition is typical for circumstellar oxide or silicate grains from red giant or asymptotic giant branch stars. The discovery of this circumstellar grain clearly establishes that there is authentic stardust in the cometary samples returned by the Stardust mission. However, the low apparent abundance of circumstellar grains in Wild 2 samples and the preponderance of isotopically normal material indicates that the cometary matter is a diverse assemblage of presolar and solar system materials.