Catching a Falling Star
Using panels that opened in space, then closed
during the fall back to Earth, NRC scientists
hoped to trap tiny meteoroids. (CSTM)
This elegant piece of apparatus (900008*) was
designed and built at the National Research Council.
Its twin was carried to a high altitude of
120 kilometres on a Black Brant. At altitude, the four
petal-like panels opened to collect any tiny
micrometeoroids that might strike the small panels.
When the apparatus fell back to a predetermined
altitude, the panels closed, trapping any
micrometeoroids for scientists studying the formation
of the Solar System. The tiny particles sought are often very delicate -
rather like snowflakes. Travelling for millions or even billions of years
- some of the oldest possibly coming from outside the solar system
- they provide clues to the conditions of the gaseous nebula from
which the Sun and planets are formed. Micrometeoroids can be collected in
rain water, but are contaminated by air and moisture, while those trapped in
space provide a "cleaner", more reliable, record of their origins
and existence in interplanetary space. Unfortunately, no particles were trapped
with the apparatus.
* The numbers in brackets are the accession numbers of artifacts held by