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  • -= Mercurious Chat =- (brunsell Chat Log)Hosted by Eric Brunsell of Space Education Initiatives

    Brian Dannemiller - Moderator at Space Ed from De Pere, Wisconsin writes:
    Welcome to the Space Explorers, Inc., chat about comets and NASA's Stardust mission with Eric Brunsell, Director of Education Programs for Space Education Initiatives.

    Barbara Aanderud - Teacher at Beulah Middle School from Beulah, North Dakota asks:
    From Charnelle Duppong: What is the Star Dust mission hoping to find?

    The Stardust mission's primary goal is to determine what the composition of the coma of a comet is.

    Barbara Aanderud - Teacher at Beulah Middle School from Beulah, North Dakota asks:
    From Teddy Oberlander: How many comets are in our solar system?

    There are millions (possibly billions) of comets in our solar system. Most of them are orbiting the Sun well beyond Pluto. Since they are so far from the Sun, they do not have a coma or tail, so we can't see them.

    Barbara Aanderud - Teacher at Beulah Middle School from Beulah, North Dakota asks:
    From Nate Weidrich: How big are comets?

    Comets come in a variety of sizes. The nucleus can range from a few miles, to a few hundred miles in diameter. The tails can streatch for millions of miles

    Brian Dannemiller - Moderator at Space Ed from De Pere, Wisconsin writes:
    Room opened by Moderator on 12/02/03 at 11:00.

    George Fatolitis - Chat Guest at John F Kennedy Middle School from Clearwater, Florida asks:
    What are the primary colors of a comet?

    That is an interesting question. The coma and dust tail of a comet are generally whitish in color because they reflect all of the sunlight. The "ion" tail is a bluish color. The nucleus, which hides inside the coma, has a very, very dark black crust.

    George Fatolitis - Chat Guest at John F Kennedy Middle School from Clearwater, Florida asks:
    Has any comets reached earth? If so what was the biggest the penetrated earth atmosphere?

    Many comets have hit the Earth. Billions of years ago, some comet impacts were large enough to wipe out almost all life on Earth. More recently, a medium sized comet (we think) exploded in the air in Siberia. This happened in 1908 and flattened miles of forest.

    George Fatolitis - Chat Guest at John F Kennedy Middle School from Clearwater, Florida asks:
    How cold are comets?

    It depends on where the comet is. If it is the deep reaches of our solar system (beyond the orbit Jupiter) it is very cold (a hundred or so degrees below zero). As it gets closer to the Sun, it warms.

    Tony Crewz - Chat Guest at West MIlwaukee from West Allis, Wisconsin asks:
    What will happen when we figure out how the universe came to be?

    I guess cosmologists would be out of work! I think it will be quite a while before scientists have a complete answer for the beginning of the universe. The Big Bang theory is the most complete theory that we have, but it doesn't explain what "started" the universe.

    Craig Sormrude - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Milwaukee, wisconsin asks:
    How long do you think it will be before we find out how the universe started

    A long, long time...

    matt lange - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee midd from west milwaukee, wisconsin asks:
    how do u feel about the mission. Do u think it will be a succes. when and where will the luanch take place. thankyou

    Stardust is a really exciting mission. The spacecraft is healthy, so it should be a successful mission. Stardust launched in February of 1999 and will arrive at the comet on January 2, 2004 - In a couple of weeks!

    david neuser - Chat Guest at wmms from west milwaukee, wi asks:
    how long will this take and do you think you will be a success?

    The Stardust spacecraft will pass through the front of the coma (the cloud of dust that surrounds the nucleus) on January 2nd and collect particles. The spacecraft will then return these particles in January of 2006

    Ashley Travers - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Allis, Wisconsin asks:
    What are comets made of?

    The different parts of a comet are made of different things. The nucleus is sort of like a diry snowball. It contains a lot of dust, water-ice, and frozen "stuff" like ammonia and other hydrocarbons

    Barbara Aanderud - Teacher at Beulah Middle School from Beulah, North Dakota asks:
    From Ben Maliske: When would we be able to view a comet orbiting Earth?

    Comets won't naturally orbit the Earth, but the comet, Encke, is now visible. The famous short period comet is visible in the northern sky in the constellation of Andromeda at the moment. It is currently located near the M31 Andromeda spiral galaxy. You can use Sky and Telescope's web site to learn how to observe comets.

    Amanda Zuber - Chat Guest at wmms from west allis, wisconsin asks:
    why do you think collecting dust from the commits tail will help you?

    Actually, the dust will be collected from the "front" of the comet. Comets are almost completely unchanged from the origin of the soloar system. By learning about comets, we can learn how our solar system (and others) was formed. Also, some scientists believe that comets may have brought the "building blocks" of life to Earth billions of years ago.

    Craig Sormrude - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Milwaukee, wisconsin asks:
    Who motivated you to become a sceintist. How did he or she motivate you

    My dad is a life science teacher, so I have always been interested in science. I had some great teachers in middle school and high school that got me interested in physics and engineering. I didn't get excited about space science until Mars Pathfinder landed in 1996.

    Ashley Travers - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Allis, Wisconsin asks:
    How are stars formed

    Stars are formed in giant dust clouds. These clouds begin to contract because of gravity until they become dense enough for nuclear fusion to start.

    Leah Kluck - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Milwaukee, Wisconsin asks:
    Are there other planets out there besides the ones we know about?

    Yes, besides the 9 planets in our solar system, we know of more than 100 planets outside of our Solar System. These are called extra-solar planets.

    Ashley Travers - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Allis, Wisconsin asks:
    Why is your mission called Stardust?

    Stardust is a fitting name because comets formed early in the formation of our Solar System. Since the cloud of gas and dust that formed our solar system was "seeded" by other dying stars, by collecting comet dust, we are actually collecting leftovers from dead stars!

    Leah Kluck - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Milwaukee, Wisconsin asks:
    Will people ever be able to go to Pluto?

    I hope so! It would be really cool since Pluto might just be a huge comet that doesn't get close enough to the Sun to form a coma and tail!

    Amanda Zuber - Chat Guest at wmms from west allis, wisconsin asks:
    how long does it take for one star to go away?

    The lifetime of a star depends on its mass. The Sun is about 1/2 way through its 10 billion year life. Stars more massive than the Sun have a shorter lifetime. But, even very massive stars live for hundreds of millions of years.

    david neuser - Chat Guest at wmms from west milwaukee, wi asks:
    is your work compicated?

    It can be. But, if you like science, it is fun.

    matt lange - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee midd from west milwaukee, wisconsin asks:
    do u think there is life on mars and or any other planets. Do u think of pluto as a planet.

    Personally, I think that there may have been life on Mars in the past. The best spot (besides Earth) for current life in the Solar System is on the moon Europa. I expect that there is life on a planet somewhere in the universe. Of course, this is my opinion...

    Justin Laboy - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Allis, Wisconsin asks:
    How do comets form?

    Comets formed during the formation of our Solar System. Heat and pressure from the sun "pushed" volatile chemicals (like ammonia, water, etc.) to the outer edges of the Solar System. That is why the gas giants are made of gas. Some of this debris formed into smaller chuncks that became comets.

    Ron Pollak - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Allis, Wisconsin asks:
    What kinds of problems affect the results of the experments?

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that go wrong. One of the biggest dangers that the spacecraft has is being hit by particles that are too big as it flies through the front of the coma. The spacecraft has protection, called Whipple Shields, that are similar to bulletproof vests.

    Leah Kluck - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Milwaukee, Wisconsin asks:
    What about living on the moon. Will that ever happen?

    Some day. Probably not in my lifetime, but maybe yours?

    Ron Pollak - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Allis, Wisconsin asks:
    What was your favorite experment to conduct?

    I enjoy doing spectroscopy. Spectroscopy lets us determine the composition of a material by looking at the light emitted or reflected from an object.

    Ashley Travers - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Allis, Wisconsin asks:
    How big can a crater be?

    One of the biggest craters that we have found is on the Moon. The South Pole - Aitken Basin is around 1550 miles in diameter. Try drawing a circle that big on a map of the US and you will see how incredible that crater is!

    Rebecca Loether - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee middle school from west milwaukee, wisconsin asks:
    do you like your jod?why?

    I like my job. I get to work with a lot of great people and learn about things that I find very interesting. I also like to teach and write, and I have plenty of opportunities to do that.

    shawn koukol - Chat Guest at west milwaukee middle school from , asks:
    have you ever been in space

    I have never been to space. I have lived about 60 miles from "space" for all of my life. But, so have you.

    Justin Laboy - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Allis, Wisconsin asks:
    what chemicals do you think comets are made of

    Comets are mostly frozen H2O. They also contain some silicates and quite a few different types of carbon molecules

    Kayla Sienko - Chat Guest at wmms from west allis, wisconsin asks:
    what is the moon made of?

    The moon is made of rock, mostly basalt.

    Sarah Rockwell - Chat Guest at West Milwaukee Middle School from West Milwaukee, Wisconsin asks:
    How hot is the sun?

    The core is about 16 million degrees (Celsius or Kelvin). The surface is over 5500 degrees C

    Lynn Mcdaniel - Teacher at Stewart Middle Magnet School from Tampa, Florida asks:
    Students: How fast can comets move through space?

    Comets move through space at thousands of miles per hour

    Lynn Mcdaniel - Teacher at Stewart Middle Magnet School from Tampa, Florida asks:
    What is the temperature of comets like?

    Hi Ms. McDaniel! How is the weather in Florida? It is much warmer than a comet. When a comet is far from the Sun, it is a few hundred degrees below zero

    Lynn Mcdaniel - Teacher at Stewart Middle Magnet School from Tampa, Florida asks:
    What is the shape of comets like?

    The nucleus of a commets are very irregular. Some are spherical, some are potato shaped. The nucleus is usually pretty rough and bumpy. Of course, this is just a guess based on current evidence. We really don't have many good pictures of a comet nucleus.

    Lynn Mcdaniel - Teacher at Stewart Middle Magnet School from Tampa, Florida asks:
    What types of tools be used to collect samples and to test the samples?

    The samples are being collected by using a special material called aerogel. Aerogel is really cool. It is one of the least dense solids known and has great insulation properties. You can learn more about aerogel at the Stardust web site.

    Ashley 06 - Student at Rivers Edge Elementary School from Port St. Lucie, Florida asks:
    Will Anyone ever be able to live on any other planet in the future

    I sure hope so. Maybe even in our lifetime.

    Lynn Mcdaniel - Teacher at Stewart Middle Magnet School from Tampa, Florida asks:
    From where in space are the samples going to be collected?

    Samples from the comet will be collected from the front of the coma of comet Wild-2 (pronounced vilt-2). Stardust also collected samples of interplanetary dust on its way to the comet.

    Brian hedrick - Chat Guest at Rivers edge from Port St Lucie, FL asks:
    are there mineral deposits on the moon?

    yes. iron, titanium, etc.

    Lynn Mcdaniel - Teacher at Stewart Middle Magnet School from Tampa, Florida asks:
    What type of vehicle will you use to return the samples back to Earth?

    The samples will be returned in a small, but tough, capsule. The capsule will plunge through Earth's atmosphere and descend to the surface with a parachute. It will land in the salt flats of Utah in 2006

    Lynn Mcdaniel - Teacher at Stewart Middle Magnet School from Tampa, Florida asks:
    How big are the comets you from which you intend on getting samples?

    The nucleus of Wild-2 is about 5km in radius. The coma is a few hundred km in radius

    Lynn Mcdaniel - Teacher at Stewart Middle Magnet School from Tampa, Florida asks:
    My class thanks you for your collaboration with them in learning more about the solar system. Are will able to email further questions that may help us in the Space Day Competition? Thank you- Mrs. Dicus

    Sure. I'll do the best I can...

    Brian hedrick - Chat Guest at Rivers edge from Port St Lucie, FL asks:
    are there hurricanes on the moon?

    The moon does not have an atmosphere or liquid water, so it doesn't have weather.

    Brian Dannemiller - Moderator at Space Ed from De Pere, Wisconsin writes:
    The chat room will be closing in a few moments. Thank you for joining us. And we would especially like to thank Eric Brunsell for being our guest today. Please join us again for our next Live Online Chat will be with International Space Station Systems Integration Engineer Dr. Jack Bacon, NASA Johnson Space Center. He will discuss the Centennial of Flight on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2003 from 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. CST.

    Lynn Mcdaniel - Teacher at Stewart Middle Magnet School from Tampa, Florida asks:
    Other than finding out about the early solar system, what other types of research will you conduct on the comet?

    Comets may have had a big role in the creation of our oceans and possibly even the formation of life on Earth. Learning about comets will help us understand the planet building / solar system building process around other stars.

    Ashley 06 - Student at Rivers Edge Elementary School from Port St. Lucie, Florida asks:
    Do you think that seeds from earth will be able to germinate and grow on the moon

    Not without a lot of help. Since there is no atmosphere, the plants would need to be contained in some sort of a pressurized greenhouse. Also, the lunar regolith

    Brian Dannemiller - Space Ed Staff at Space Ed from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    Plants on the moon continued . . .

    Oops...I cut myself off. The lunar regolith (moon dirt) doesn't have nutrients for the plant to grow. Therefore, we would have to use a lot of fertilizer. Finally, since the Moon does not have a magnetic field (like the Earth) we would need something to shield the plants from solar radiation. If you can get past all of that, then sure plants will grow on the Moon!

    Brian Dannemiller - Moderator at Space Ed from De Pere, Wisconsin writes:
    12/2/2003 12:09:08 PM - Room closed by Moderator. Thank you for your participation.

     
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