The University of Arizona

A cometary aggregate interplanetary dust particle as an analog for comet Wild 2 grain chemistry preserved in silica-rich Stardust glass



Many of the nanometer-scale grains from comet 81P/Wild 2 did not survive hypervelocity capture. Instead, they melted and interacted with silica melt derived from the aerogel used by the Stardust mission. Their petrological properties were completely modified, but their bulk chemistry was preserved in the chemical signatures of mostly vesicular Si-rich glass with its typical Fe-Ni-S compound inclusions. Chondritic aggregate IDP L2011A9 that experienced atmospheric pre-entry thermal modification was selected as an analog to investigate these Wild 2 chemical signatures. The chemical, petrologic, and mineralogical properties of the individual constituents in this aggregate IDP are presented and used to match the chemical signatures of these Wild 2 grains. Mixing of comet material and pure silica, which is used in a diagram that recognizes this mixing behavior, is used to constrain the probable petrologic and minerals that caused the Wild 2 signatures. The Wild 2 nanometer-scale grain signatures in Si-rich glass allocations from three different deceleration tracks resembled mixtures of ultrafine-grained principal components and dense agglomerate-like material, Mg-rich silicates (<500 nm) and Fe,Ni-sulfides (<100 nm), and Si-rich amorphous material. Dust resembling the mixed matrix of common chondritic aggregate IDPs was present in Jupiter-family comet Wild 2.


cometary Dust;Interplanetary dust particles (IDPs);Electron microscopy;Stardust Space mission(s)

Full Text: