Welcome to StarDust project

StarDust

The interstellar dust particles returned to Earth by the Stardust mission are the first such pristine dust particles ever collected in space, and scientists are eager to "get their hands" on them. But first the particles have to be found! This will not be easy. We estimate that Stardust collected only around 45 interstellar dust particles. They are tiny—only about a micron (a millionth of a meter) in size! These miniscule particles are embedded in an aerogel collector 1,000 square centimeters in size. Finding them will be like searching for 45 ants on a football field while searching one 5 cm x 5 cm square at a time.
This is where you come in:

By asking for help from talented volunteers like you from all over the world, we can do this project far quicker than the decades it would have taken to do it on our own. To find the tiny particles we are using an automated scanning microscope to automatically collect digital images of the entire Stardust interstellar collector. We call these "stacks" of images focus movies. All in all, there will be nearly a million of them. These are available to Stardust@home volunteers around the world. You can view them with the aid of a special Virtual Microscope (VM).


Together, you and thousands of other Stardust@home participants will find the first pristine interstellar dust particles ever brought to Earth!

 

The discoverer of an interstellar dust particle will appear as a co-author on scientific papers by the Stardust@home team announcing the discovery of the particle. The discoverer will also have the privilege of naming the particle!

How to participate

First, you will go through a short web-based tutorial. Then, you must pass a web-based test to qualify to register and participate. After passing the test and registering, you will be able to login to the Virtual Microscope (VM). The VM will automatically connect to our server and download focus movies. The VM will work within your web browser, under your control.

The VM downloads and displays focus movies, so that you can do just what someone sitting at real microscope would do: focus up and down to look for particle tracks. To use the VM you will need a relatively fast internet connection, and the latest version of just about any web browser. Find out more about system requirements for the VM on our Technical FAQ.

Some things to keep in mind while searching...

  • Click on the particle tracks if you find them, or click on "No Track" if you see none.
  • Keep an open mind about what the particle tracks may look like. Tracks of real interstellar dust may look quite different from what we have used for the training and the test.
  • Each focus movie will be viewed by many different people. When a volunteer identifies the focus movie as either having or not having a particle track the movie will be given a score. The score the focus movie receives will be weighted by the score of the volunteer.
  • Volunteers will receive a score based on how well they identify calibration focus movies. While you are searching, you will be shown calibration focus movies at random. These are focus movies known to contain either real tracks or no tracks.

Microscope

A U.S. quarter is 24 millimeters in diameter This image of the quarter and human hair at 7.5x magnification is 9,090 microns across. This image at 25x magnification, zoomed in on the "ERT" of "LIBERTY" is 2,380 microns across. This image shows the 120x magnification image cropped to the same size as the Virtual Microscope focus movies (480x360 microns).