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Images: Dust Grains from Interstellar Space

Interstellar visitors

dust diffraction pattern

(Image credit: Zack Gainsforth)

A NASA spacecraft has captured dust particles that scientists believe may come from interstellar space. Above: a false color image of diffraction pattern from one of the particles, called Orion.

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Beaming at dust

Advanced Light Source at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory

(Image credit: Zack Gainsforth)

Researchers used the Advanced Light Source at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, California, to analyze the dust particles that were captured by NASA's Stardust spacecraft.

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Stardust lab

Stardust Lab at Johnson Space Center

(Image credit: Zack Gainsforth)

The specks could provide clues about the origin and evolution of interstellar dust that couldn't be found through astronomical observations, researchers say. Above: a day in the Stardust Lab at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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X-rayed dust

X-ray fluorescence map of dust

(Image credit: Anna Butterworth)

The researchers created this X-ray fluorescence map of the first interstellar dust candidate, Orion. Red is aluminum, green is iron, blue is magnesium.

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The life of Orion

Optical Microscope image of dust

(Image credit: NASA/JSC/(D. Frank))

Additional tests must be done to confirm the particles' origin, but the evidence suggests that seven specks of dust gathered by NASA's Stardust spacecraft came from outside the solar system. Above: A noptical microscope image of Orion only shortly after it was removed from the spacecraft's dust collector.

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Keystone

A picokeystone

(Image credit: Andrew Westphal)

A picokeystone extracted from NASA's Stardust spacecraft interstellar dust collector at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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Cutting for stone

keystoning apparatus

(Image credit: Zack Gainsforth)

A keystoning apparatus cuts a picokeystone out of the dust collector.

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Keystone closeup

keystoning apparatus

(Image credit: Zack Gainsforth)

A keystoning apparatus cuts a picokeystone out of the dust collector.

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Dust crater

interstellar dust crater

(Image credit: Rhonda Stroud, Naval Research Laboratory)

A scanning electron microscope view of one of the tiny craters on a NASA probe thought to be from the impact of interstellar dust. The crater is about 280 nanometers across.

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