Key 'Stardust' spacecraft find questioned

April 9, 2007

Spanish scientists say one of the major discoveries from last year's "Stardust" space mission might have resulted from rocket booster contamination.

Stardust was the first U.S. space mission to capture samples from a comet and return the material to Earth. But scientists were surprised to find Stardust had collected tiny grains of the mineral osbornite, which chemically is titanium nitride.

Astronomers concluded the osbornite could have formed near the sun, and ejected to the outer reaches of the solar system -- an indication that the infant solar system was a much more violent and place then previous believed.

But Jesus Martinez-Frias and colleagues at the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid suggest another possible explanation.

The researchers note the Stardust's rocket thrusters used a propellant of ultra-pure hydrazine, which is also used to make titanium nitride on Earth, and might have reacted in space with titanium from the comet or spacecraft to form titanium nitride.

Martinez-Frias and colleagues say further studies are needed before reaching a final conclusion on the osbornite origin.

The theory is detailed in the May 16 issue of the journal Energy & Fuels.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Earth might have hairy dark matter

November 23, 2015

The solar system might be a lot hairier than we thought. A new study publishing this week in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, proposes the existence of ...

Scientists detect stellar streams around Magellanic Clouds

November 23, 2015

(—Astronomers from the University of Cambridge, U.K., have detected a number of narrow streams and diffuse debris clouds around two nearby irregular dwarf galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. The research also ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.