Friday, January 13, 2006

Utah desert gets ready for Stardust landing

A NASA space capsule returns with 'building blocks of life'

Precious bits of comet and star dust will blaze a 15-minute long fiery trail over California, Nevada and western Utah early on Sunday morning. NASA's Stardust capsule will return to earth, completing its seven-year long, 3 billion-mile-journey to the comet Wild 2. The capsule is carrying the first-ever comet particles and stardust for study on earth. The spacecraft's cargo is expected to land in early morning darkness Sunday at the Dugway Proving Ground in the desert west of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thousands of volunteers are lining up - online, that is - to help scientists at the University of California-Berkeley analyze the first close-up pictures of primal matter from beyond our solar system.

Scientists say the unmanned Stardust spacecraft is carrying thousands of microscopic particles cast off by Comet Wild 2. More than 4 billion years old, the particles could provide clues to the origins of the solar system and even life on Earth.

The Stardust capsule will create a fireball as it plummets through the Earth's atmosphere. The brief show may be visible in southern Oregon, Northern California, Idaho, Nevada and Uta. The pinkish light will glow brighter than Venus. More from Reuters.

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letter shredder said...

I think this one is very exciting. If I were there, I'd be volunteering as well.

DCS said...

Letter Shredder: So would I!