Antarctic radioactive dating of meteorites
Figure 1: The CARDINAL flight prototype, ready for its first balloon flight.
CARDINAL features a rotating-arm collector inside a sealed fuselage.
For instance, meteorite fragments have been found in samples returned from the Moon, and the robotic rover asteroids that orbit in the inner portion of the main asteroid belt, between about 2.1 and 3.3 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun.
(One astronomical unit is the average distance from Earth to the Sun—about 150 million km [93 million miles].) It is in this region that strong gravitational perturbations by the planets, especially Jupiter, can put meteoroids into Earth-crossing orbits.
At high altitude, a door opens to expose the arm and collectors attached to the arm.
Figure 2: Ron Bastien inspects the swing arm with CARDINAL's door open.
Not all meteoroids need to have formed in this region, however, as there are a number of processes that can cause their orbits to migrate over long time periods.
Cosmic Dust collected in Antarctica was collected over longer sampling periods than similar material collected via aircraft, and so may include more comprehensive sampling of both the sporadic infall and material associated with specific cometary debris streams.
For further discussion of the sources of meteorites and the processes by which they are brought to Earth, The principal driving force behind meteorite studies is the fact that small bodies such as asteroids and comets are most likely to preserve evidence of events that took place in the early solar system.
There are at least two reasons to expect that this is the case.
We expect that this process should be complete before the end of this calendar year.
A team of Texas A&M engineering undergraduate students have completed and delivered the CARDINAL (Cometary and Asteroidal Research of Dust in Near-space Atmospheric Levels) prototype for collecting cosmic dust using NASA high-altitude balloons (Figure 1-2).