Preparation of large Stardust aluminum foil craters for analysis

1,2Penelope J. Wozniakiewicz,3,4Anton T. Kearsley,1Mark J. Burchell,1Mark C. Price,5Hope A. Ishii,1Michael J. Cole
Meteoritics & Planetary Science (in Press) Link to Article [DOI: 10.1111/maps.13052]
1School of Physical Science, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
2Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, London, UK
3North Yorkshire, UK
4Imaging and Analysis Centre, Natural History Museum, London, UK
5Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawai’i, USA
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Over the last decade, silica aerogel tracks and aluminum foil craters on the Stardust collector have been studied extensively to determine the nature of captured cometary dust grains. Analysis of particles captured in aerogel has been developed to a fine art, aided by sophisticated preparation techniques, and yielding revolutionary knowledge of comet dust mineralogy. The Stardust foil craters can be interpreted in terms of impacting particle size and structure, but almost all studies of composition for their contents have relied on in situ analysis techniques or relatively destructive extraction of materials. This has limited their examination and interpretation. However, numerous experimental hypervelocity impact studies under Stardust-Wild 2 encounter conditions have shown that abundant dust components are preserved in foil craters of all sizes. Using some of these analogue materials, we have previously shown that modern, nondestructive scanning electron microscope imaging and X-ray microanalysis techniques can document distribution of dust remnants both quickly and thoroughly within foil craters prior to any preparation. Here we present findings from our efforts to quantify the amount of residue and demonstrate a simple method of crater shape modification which can bring material into positions where it is much more accessible for in situ analysis, or safe removal of small subsamples. We report that approximately 50% of silicate-dominated impactors were retained as impact crater residue; however, <3% of organic impactors remained in the craters after impact.


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