Stardust nears end of epic journey

Ivan Seeking

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Stardust nears end of epic journey; researchers await its treasure

Donald Brownlee's heart skipped a beat six years ago when the launch of the Stardust spacecraft didn't happen as planned. The University of Washington astronomy professor has experienced many other tense times since the historic mission blasted off a day late, and its return to Earth on Jan. 15 will be just one more white-knuckle moment.

Just before 3 a.m. MST, the spacecraft will jettison its return capsule, which will plunge into Earth's atmosphere at nearly 29,000 miles per hour, the greatest return speed ever recorded. A few moments later, after the capsule slows to just faster than the speed of sound, a parachute will apply the brakes and Stardust will settle to the ground on the Air Force's Utah Testing and Training Range southwest of Salt Lake City. [continued]
http://www.uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=21550 [Broken]
 
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LURCH

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It will be 4:30 Sunday Morning here in Michigan when the live NASA webcast begins. I'll be up and watching!
 

Ivan Seeking

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Re-entry is supposed to be visible in some areas along the west coast.
 
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LURCH

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Yeah, I emailed that to a friend of mine in OR, but (suprise, suprise!) the forecast is for thick solid overcast all night.
 

Integral

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Right now, in Oregon, there is something strange going on outside... A bright yellow thing has appeared in the sky. The sky which normally is gray with shades of black is now showing patches of blue.... Is this the end of the earth? can anybody explain what I am seeing?


I doubt this break in the overcast will last long or be significant enough to catch the reentry which must be after midnight tonight.
 

tony873004

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Something strange happened here in San Francisco too. The rain clouds went away and the sky turned black! And it is full of lights, hundreds of them.

From here Stardust should pass next to the Polaris at 1:58 local time. The sky is completely clear. Let's hope it stays that way until 2am. Then I can post a picture.
 

Ivan Seeking

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Does everyone have their pocket protectors and popcorn?
 

tony873004

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I saw nothing.

The San Francisco sky was 100% clear. I'm pretty sure I was looking in the right place at the right time.

I've seen 2 shuttles re-enter, and it's a bright, obvious thing that would catch your eye if you weren't looking for it. But I guess the Stardust probe is very small.
 

eep

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I'm in Berkeley I saw nothing, too. I thought I was just looking in the wrong place!
 

Ivan Seeking

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It was cloudy here, but I noticed that by the time I looked it had already nearly passed. The time frame was very narrow. I realized that I was still looking through a hole in the clouds when it was almost over Utah.

This was the fastest man-made object to ever enter the atmosphere - about 28,000 mph.

Ah, it looks like they found it... waiting... waiting...

I keep thinking how funny it would be if they lost it in Utah...

waiting... okay, they found it. YAY!!!
 

Pengwuino

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I wanna see one of these things come down. You can see it with the naked eye right ?
 

Ivan Seeking

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oh wait... it's just the chute...

the suspense is killing me! :biggrin:
 

Ivan Seeking

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Pengwuino said:
I wanna see one of these things come down. You can see it with the naked eye right ?
You were in a great spot to see this one. Yes, it was supposed to be visible.
 

Pengwuino

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We have overcast here :(
 
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Yesterday I saw Brownlee's press conference for the Stardust NASA mission on one of our public use cable TV channels. All pretty fascinating space material a lot of scientists are eager to analyze. I just recently read Brownlee's well received book of a year or three ago, "Rare Earth". (highly recommended) So can imagine what all that means to that astrobiology community.

...David
 

LURCH

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Whoot! Good sample return! Saw the pics at Space.com, you can plainly see the impact sights.
 

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