Aerogel tracks made by impacts of glycine: Implications for formation of bulbous tracks in aerogel and the Stardust mission


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Abstract– Impacts of small particles of soda-lime glass and glycine onto low density aerogel are reported. The aerogel had a quality similar to the flight aerogels carried by the NASA Stardust mission that collected cometary dust during a flyby of comet 81P/Wild 2 in 2004. The types of track formed in the aerogel by the impacts of the soda-lime glass and glycine are shown to be different, both qualitatively and quantitatively. For example, the soda-lime glass tracks have a carrot-like appearance and are relatively long and slender (width to length ratio <0.11), whereas the glycine tracks consist of bulbous cavities (width to length ratio >0.26). In consequence, the glycine particles would be underestimated in diameter by a factor of 1.7–3.2, if the glycine tracks were analyzed using the soda-lime glass calibration and density. This implies that a single calibration for impacting particle size based on track properties, as previously used by Stardust to obtain cometary dust particle size, is inappropriate.