Nasa is recruiting Internet users to search for the first few dozen submicroscopic grains of interstellar dust brought back to Earth. The US space agency hopes that the particles, perhaps millions of years-old and dating back to supernova explosions, have been captured by its Stardust spacecraft, which returned to Earth yesterday.
The agency has developed an online “virtual microscope” for scanning the 1.5 million pictures that will be taken of the plate used to trap the speeding dust in space. Each picture will cover an area smaller than a grain of salt. If you discover a particle, it will be named after you.
The Internet may have saved Nasa’s blushes on the $200 million project. When the spacecraft was launched in 1999, Nasa was unsure how to find the nearly invisible dust.
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