Dust aggregates imaged by MIDAS

Posted in Comet 67P, Comets, Dust, Rosetta

This video released by ESA shows scans made by the MIDAS instrument (an atomic force microscope) on the Rosetta spacecraft of dust grains lost from the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  An atomic force microscope uses a very fine needle to scan the three-dimensional shape of tiny particles with nanometre resolution, and MIDAS is the first ever such instrument launched into space.. The full description of the results can be seen in this technical publication from September 2016, and a less-technical summary here. The dust particles were collected by the Rosetta spacecraft over the winter of 2014/2015. A key result of the scans is that the dust ‘particles’ are themselves aggregates of smaller particles , and that both conpact and ‘fluffy’ grains exist. Knowing this structure may help us to understand why the dust on the surface of the comet is so loosly bound. The properties of the particles are generally similar to those of interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) that have been collected and studied on Earth.

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