Lecture: 18 October “… Analyses of Cometary and Interstellar Dust” by A. Wesphal, UCB

18 October 2016, Tuesday, 7:45 PM, Presidio Observation Post, Building 211

“Stardust Mission: Analyses of Cometary and Interstellar Dust in the Lab”


Andrew Westphal, PhD, Space Sciences Laboratory, UC Berkeley

Andrew Westphal

Stardust was the first spacecraft ever to bring back to Earth extraterrestrial materials from beyond the Moon. It was designed for two missions in one spacecraft. Stardust returned the first samples from a known primitive solar system body, the Jupiter-family Comet Wild 2. Stardust also carried a separate collector that was exposed to the interstellar dust stream for 200 days before the encounter with the Comet.These tiny rocks – a trillion would fit into a teaspoon – were identified in the return collector by a small army of more than 30,000 citizen scientists, through a project called Stardust@home.

Here is an artist’s perception of the Stardust spacecraft approaching a comet:

Stardust Mission

Dr. Westphal will present results of laboratory analyses of samples from both collectors, including laboratory analyses of seven particles that are likely the first individual rocks from the local interstellar medium ever identified.

Brief Bio

Andrew Westphal is a Research Physicist and Senior Fellow at the Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley. Dr. Westphal received his PhD at UC Berkeley in 1992 in high-energy astrophysics, migrated to planetary science about a decade ago, and has been intensively involved in analyses of the cometary and interstellar dust collections returned by the Stardust mission.

Most recently he was the leader of the Interstellar Preliminary Examination for the Stardust mission, and is involved in the planning for new missions, including an new interstellar dust mission and a mission to collect a surface sample from a comet.

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