Monday, January 16, 2006

WANTED - Volunteers to look for comet dust

Now that the Stardust space probe has landed with its cargo of comet dust, all that remains is to examine the samples.

And you and your computer can help.

The project is called Stardust@home, which is similar to the SETI@home project that used personal computers to look for signals from space. This time, ordinary home computers will be part of the process to find the tiny grains of space dust.

The Stardust probe gathered particles by exposing a gel to space, in the trail of the comet Wild 2.

It would take an army of scientists peering into microscopes, looking through all that gel, to detect the few bits of dust that could tell us about the origins of the universe. Now a "virtual microscope" will be used instead, and the general public gets to join the search.

If you've ever wanted to be like Mr. Spock, peering into that strange blue light on the bridge of the Enterprise, here's your chance.

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