NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Comet dust particle from the Stardust mission, light micrograph. This particle was found to be composed of the mineral forsterite, a type of olivine that is common on Earth and has also been found in meteorites. The particle was captured in an aerogel collector, which was extended into the dusty coma of the comet Wild-2 by the Stardust spacecraft during its encounter in January 2004. The aerogel then returned to Earth in a capsule, landing on 15th January 2006. The spacecraft remained in space. Aerogel is a solid with extremely low density, designed to slow and stop the dust particles without damaging them. Comets are relics from the formation of the solar system, and study of their composition could provide information on its history. This particle is around two micrometres (0.002 millimetres) across.
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