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MSRAL 2006 Convention

September Regular Meeting at SLAS

September 21, 2007 at 7:30 pm
McDonnell Hall, Washington University

Dust In the (Cosmic) Wind


John Foote

Staff Engineer, Retired
McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences
Washington University

The universe is vast in scale, but tiny in detail. The smallest pieces of matter are intimately connected with the largest scale structures. Dust is found, not just at the surfaces of planets like Earth and Mars, but also blowing in the wind from the Sun, the tails of comets, and the atmospheres of stars. It mixes with gases and collects into huge clouds, from which new stars form. Cosmic dust can be collected from high-flying aircraft, from orbiting satellites, and from far-ranging spacecraft. These sub-microscopic specks of alien material contain clues to when and how the solar system formed, to the detailed composition of ancient stars, and to the conditions present at the birth of stars. Mr. Foote will talk about the scale of the universe, the study of cosmic dust and about the state-of-the-art machines used to decipher those clues to the very large contained in the very small.

John Foote was for over fifteen years a Staff Engineer in the McDonnell Center For the Space Sciences at Washington University. He was part of a research team that used instruments such as the ion probe and the electron microprobe to study the composition and structure of specks of dust far too small to be seen with the unaided eye. Mr. Foote will talk about what has been learned from cosmic dust and what it was like to work with the complex instruments of cosmochemistry.


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