2016-2017 Science Planning Summaries
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2016-2017 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Sampling comet dust from Antarctic air

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Peter Milne

ASC POC/Implementer:
Samina Ouda / Paul Sullivan

Principal Investigator

Dr. Susan Taylor

Army Corps of Engineers
Army Engineer Research and Development Center
Hanover, New Hampshire


Supporting Stations: South Pole Station
Research Locations: Clean Air Sector


Analyses of interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) collected in the stratosphere by aircraft have shown that some of these particles, the chondritic porous IDPs (CP-IDPs), are primitive materials. They contain vapor-deposited silicates thought to be preserved interstellar materials transported to the inner solar system by comets. Past researchers have collected rare ultra-carbonaceous micrometeorites and particles indistinguishable from CP-IDPs from melted Antarctic snow. These particles have shown affinities to CP-IDPs and grains of the Wild 2 comet. This project aims to collect samples to analyze the isotopic and elemental composition and describe their microstructure. The results will be used to catalog the diversity of the primitive materials, origin of the comets, and increase the permanent collection for the extraterrestrial materials community.

Field Season Overview

This is the first of three seasons for this project. Participants will travel to South Pole by fixed wing aircraft and spend three weeks working with ASC carpenters and electricians to install the dust collecter in Building 80, 250 feet from the Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO).

Deploying Team Members

  • Conel Alexander (Co-PI)
  • James Lever (Co-PI)
  • Susan Taylor (PI)