Astromaterials Newsletter – Volume 1 No. 2 August 2019
Cosmic Dust News
Marc Fries, Cosmic Dust Curator
The Cosmic Dust (CD) collection continues to make improvements to policy and procedure, and has several exciting developments to announce.
Accession of New dust CollectionsCD has taken received material from two small-particle astromaterials collections, which will appreciably improve the scope of the CD collection. The two collections are micrometeorites from the South Pole, Antarctica water well, and a suite of air filters used to collect cosmic dust from Antarctic air. The micrometeorite collection will expand the scope of the CD collection into larger material, which may also include sampling an expanded suite of parent bodies. Cosmic Dust collected in Antarctica was collected over longer sampling periods than similar material collected via aircraft, and so may include more comprehensive sampling of both the sporadic infall and material associated with specific cometary debris streams.
Both of these collections have preliminary Curation databases, which will be finalized in the coming months. Once handling, storage, and other protocols are finalized, these collections will be announced as available for loan in a forthcoming issue of the Astromaterials Newsletter. We expect that this process should be complete before the end of this calendar year.
First Flight of CARDINAL Balloon-Borne CollectorA team of Texas A&M engineering undergraduate students have completed and delivered the CARDINAL (Cometary and Asteroidal Research of Dust in Near-space Atmospheric Levels) prototype for collecting cosmic dust using NASA high-altitude balloons (Figure 1-2). Collection via balloons will serve to supplement aircraft-based collection, and features several improved capabilities. These include timed collections during long-duration flights, where collection can precisely and continuously cover the period when a specific meteor shower is active. The higher altitude where NASA balloons operate (~30-36 km) relative to aircraft should result in collection of less terrestrial material than aircraft-collected flights and may offer a degree of immunity from contamination by large volcanic eruptions.
The low-airspeed collection inherent to balloon-borne flights may improve "dry" collection via foam or other oil-free substrates. The first flight of CARDINAL is currently slated for 14 August 2019 at the NASA flight facility at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, following integration and testing into a balloon gondola. The goals of this first flight are testing the overall concept, and specifically the electronics, motor, actuation, and performance of CARDINAL components. We expect to collect a representative sampling of contaminants present in balloon-borne collection for study, but the short duration of the flight (<1 day total) will probably prevent collection of significant cosmic dust. A second flight is scheduled for October. After the first flight, we will assess the need for a second flight before transitioning into lessons-learned and design refinement activities.
Data Mining for Previous "Timed" CollectionsTo date, CD has exposed nearly 600 collectors over 38 years of collection flights. Were any of these collectors exposed during specific cometary dust encounters, such that they represent "timed" collections of a particular parent body? The possibility exists that some collectors represent unintended "timed" collections, pre-dating CD efforts to specifically do so. We have begun a data dive into the existing collection to identify any collectors that are good candidates for timed collection and will announce them in upcoming newsletters.
Figure 1: The CARDINAL flight prototype, ready for its first balloon flight. CARDINAL features a rotating-arm collector inside a sealed fuselage. At high altitude, a door opens to expose the arm and collectors attached to the arm.
Figure 2: Ron Bastien inspects the swing arm with CARDINAL's door open. For CARDINAL's first flight, one collector is a traditional oil-coated flat-plate collector, while the other is a foam collector featuring a 3D-printed foam holder designed and printed by Ron.