A large number of cometary dust particles were captured with low-density silica aerogel during the NASA Stardust mission. The dust particles penetrated into the aerogel and formed various track shapes. To estimate the properties of the dust particles, such as density and size, based on the morphology of the tracks, we carried out systematic experiments testing impacts into low-density aerogel at 6kms-1 using projectiles of various sizes and densities. We found that the maximum track diameter and the ratio of the track length to the maximum track diameter in aerogel are good indicators of projectile size and density, respectively. Based on these results, we estimated the size and density of individual dust particles from comet 81P/Wild 2. The average density of the "fluffy" dust particles and the bulk density of all dust particles were obtained as 0.35 ± 0.07 and 0.49 ± 0.18gcm -3, respectively. These statistical data provided the content of monolithic and coarse grains in the Stardust particles, ∼ 30wt%. Combining this result with some mid-infrared observational data, we found that the content of crystalline silicates is ∼ 50wt% or more of non-volatile material.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science