Properties of original impactors estimated from three-dimensional analysis of whole Stardust tracks


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Abstract– The Stardust mission captured comet Wild 2 particles in aerogel at 6.1 km s−1. We performed high-resolution three-dimensional imaging and X-ray fluorescence mapping of whole cometary tracks in aerogel. We present the results of a survey of track structures using laser scanning confocal microscopy, including measurements of track volumes, entry hole size, and cross-sectional profiles. We compare various methods for measuring track parameters. We demonstrate a methodology for discerning hypervelocity particle ablation rates using synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence, combined with mass and volume estimates of original impactors derived from measured track properties. Finally, we present a rough framework for reconstruction of original impactor size, and volume of volatilized material, using our measured parameters. The bulk of this work is in direct support of nondestructive analysis and identification of cometary grains in whole tracks, and its eventual application to the reconstruction of the size, shape, porosity, and chemical composition of whole Stardust impactors.