Solid smoke and stardust

Recently I visited the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla in the Australian Capital Territory, where they have a sample of aerogel, aka “solid smoke”.

The author in front of the Big Dish at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
Here’s me posing in front of the Big Dish at Tidbinbilla. Disappointingly, their cafe doesn’t have a meal called a ‘Big Dish’. Get onto that, CDSCC!

This ethereal substance was used on NASA’s Stardust probe to capture dust from comet Wild 2 and return it to Earth—along with a handful of precious samples of interstellar dust, giving a rare glimpse of material from outside our Solar System.

A 2 gram piece of aerogel holding up a 2.5 kg brick (image from NASA/JPL-Caltech)
A 2 gram piece of aerogel holding up a 2.5 kg brick (image from NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Listen to our show from 27 August 2015 to hear all about it.

You can also hear our interview with British scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, host of the long-running astronomy TV show The Sky at Night, and who’s also known for answering important questions like, do we really need the Moon?

Yes. Yes we do.

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