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Stardust Status Report
From Dr. Peter Tsou
Stardust Deputy Principal Investigator

Happy Valentine's from Stardust!

As part of the first Sample Processing Cycle, the keystone of the first released particle was taken to the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York and examined by the far-IR beam. The particle was shown to be definitely a cometary mineral and not secondary debris. As part of the second Sample Processing Cycle, the terminal particle - the particle at the end of the tract - was removed from the keystone for further analyses on Valentine's Day. To our surprise, we found the particle to be heart-shaped! Happy Valentine's to the world from Stardust! I have been assured that this is the real shape of the particle!

A heart-shaped comet particle extracted from aerogel. Image right:A heart-shaped comet particle extracted from aerogel. Image credit: NASA/JPL

This particle will be embedded in sulfur first with few wafers removed for mineralogy and petrology studies, and then the remainder of the particle will be pressed into Au foil for isotopic studies.

During the 2nd Sample Processing Cycle, we removed four additional Wild 2 aerogel cells with relative ease, after having made some adjustments learned from the first Cycle. All four cells are being scanned by the binocular microscope as well as the compound microscope to capture more of the smaller particle tracks. More keystones, quickstones and mircrotomes slides are being made to supply the eagerly awaiting analysts around the world. We have also taken a sample from the largest capture tract without removing the cell from the Wild 2 tray, to provide definitive proof that the largest particles are from Wild 2 and are not secondary debris.