SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

The Stardust Interstellar Preliminary Examination team analyzed thirteen Al foils from the NASA Stardust interstellar collector tray in order to locate candidate interstellar dust (ISD) grain impacts. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) images reveal that the foils possess abundant impact crater and crater-like features. Elemental analyses of the crater features, with Auger electron spectroscopy, SEM-based energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) spectroscopy, and scanning transmission electron microscope-based EDX spectroscopy, demonstrate that the majority are either the result of impacting debris fragments from the spacecraft solar panels, or intrinsic defects in the foil. The elemental analyses also reveal that four craters contain residues of a definite extraterrestrial origin, either as interplanetary dust particles or ISD particles. These four craters are designated level 2 interstellar candidates, based on the crater shapes indicative of hypervelocity impacts and the residue compositions inconsistent with spacecraft debris.