I’ve been participating in the Stardust@Home project. It’s in the same spirit as the SETI@Home project, except you’re actually doing something instead of just donating computer cycles.

The Stardust spacecraft flew near comet Wild2 in January 2004. Returning to Earth in 2006, it brought back particle samples from the comet’s coma.

The Stardust@Home project has scanned the aerogel collector from the spacecraft. Volunteers go online and (after taking online tutorials and passing a test) examine a tiny area at a time searching for interstellar dust particles. If you believe you’ve found something you mark that slide.

In and of itself, not a very exciting activity, but it’s pretty cool to have a chance to be a part of space science from your own home. Or office – I’ve been examining samples at lunch. I can hold a turkey burger in one hand and work the “virtual microscope” with the other. The project keeps track of your statistics, as well as throwing in the occasional “calibration” slide to keep you on your toes and measure your effectiveness.

Here’s my current stats:

Calibration Movies Answered Correctly 61    
Calibration Movies Answered Incorrectly 3
Your Overall Score: 58
Total Real Movies Viewed: 154
Your Rank: 7054 out of 16171
Specificity: 100%
Sensitivity: 92%

I’ve identified only 2 possible dust particles so far. Other volunteers view the same slides for confirmation and then it moves on to the scientists. Haven’t heard any verifiction yet. It supposedly takes a while.

October 12, 2006 | Posted in: Astronomy | Comments Closed

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