Neal Turner (JPL - CalTech)

Fragments from the Origins of the Solar System and our Interstellar Locale (FOSSIL): A Proposed NASA Mission to Sample Cometary and Interstellar Dust
When Aug 15, 2019 from 02:30 PM to 03:30 PM
What
  • Colloquium
Where SH Lecture Hall
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Comets preserve the least-altered materials remaining from the birth of the solar system.  However, the few visited by spacecraft are diverse in composition, and touring enough of these small bodies for a representative sample would be very costly.  A team of us has therefore proposed a Discovery-class mission to measure the makeup of hundreds of comets via the dust they shed into the zodiacal cloud.  The mission, Fragments from the Origins of the Solar System and our Interstellar Locale (FOSSIL), would carry four identical dust telescopes whose combined collecting area would yield measurements of the orbits and compositions of thousands of the zodiacal particles, along with hundreds of the interstellar particles always traversing interplanetary space.  These measurements would enable FOSSIL to (1) determine the raw materials present during the formation of the solar system by characterizing interstellar dust, (2) determine how much the material in comets was processed by heat and water in the early solar system, and (3) characterize the organics delivered by the comets to the planets.  Building on in situ and returned sample measurements of cometary and interstellar particles' compositions from the Giotto, Vega, Ulysses, Stardust, Cassini, and Rosetta missions, FOSSIL would enable breakthroughs in understanding our solar system's largest visible structure, the zodiacal cloud, and reading its record of the origins of our planetary system.