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Dr Don Brownlee
"Exploring Comets with Spacecraft"
April, 18, 2011

Comets formed at the edge of the solar system by the accumulation of rocky, icy and organic materials. They are fascinating objects to observe with telescopes and they are important scientifically because they are preserved building blocks of the planets that were stored beyond the orbit of Neptune for billions of years.

The Stardust Spacecraft collected samples from comet Wild 2 and returned them to Earth where they have now been studied for five years. The most remarkable finding from the mission was that the rocky components in comets, most of the mass of comets, was made at extremely high temperatures. High temperature products at the outer reaches of the Solar System?

Dr. Brownlee offers puzzle pieces how rocky materials combine with ices and organic materials to form comets.

After flying almost 5 billion miles, past a comet, an asteroid and past the Earth a total of three times, the Stardust spacecraft will fly past comet Tempel 1 this Feb. 14, 2011 hopefully just before it finally runs out of gas (hydrazine!).

The fascinating goal of this close high speed flyby is to image the impact crater made by the high speed impact of an 800 pound part of the Deep Impact spacecraft in 2005

Dr Brownlee's Bio can be found at: http://www.astro.washington.edu/users/brownlee

 

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