Skip to main content

Lecture Oct. 17 “Stardust: Analyses of cometary and interstellar dust”

On Saturday, October 17, our talk will be given by Andrew Westphal and will be entitled “Stardust: Analyses of cometary and interstellar dust in the laboratory

LOCATION: 100 GPB (Genetics and Plant Biology Building), UC Berkeley.
TIME: 11am-12:30pm.

Stardust was the first spacecraft ever to bring back to Earth extraterrestrial materials from beyond the Moon. It was two missions in one spacecraft. Stardust returned the first samples from a known primitive solar system body, the Jupiter-family comet Wild 2. Stardust also carried a separate collector that was exposed the interstellar dust stream for 200 days before the encounter with the comet. These tiny rocks — a trillion would fit into a teaspoon — were identified in the returned collector by a small army of more than 30,000 citizen scientists, through a project called Stardust@home.

Dr. Westphal will present results of laboratory analyses of samples from both collectors, including laboratory analyses of seven particles that are likely the first individual rocks from the local interstellar medium ever identified.

stardust mission

NASA’s Stardust spacecraft, which collected comet and interstellar dust in 2004 and later delivered the tennis-racket shaped dust collectors to Earth via parachute. Image: NASA.


Andrew Westphal

Andrew Westphal is a Research Physicist and Senior Fellow at the Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley. He got his BA at Rice University, Russian Teaching Certificate at the Pushkin Institute in Moscow, his MS in Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Washington, and his PhD at UC Berkeley in 1992 in high-energy astrophysics. He migrated to planetary science about a decade ago, and since then has been intensively involved in analyses of the cometary and interstellar collections returned by the Stardust mission. Most recently he was the leader of the Interstellar Preliminary Examination for the Stardust mission, and is involved in the planning for new missions, including an new interstellar dust mission and a mission to collect a surface sample from a comet.

This free public talk is presented as part of the monthly “Science@Cal Lecture Series”
Event Contact:
Webcast: Webcast. Events are recorded and typically made available a few days after the event.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *