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INTERPLANETARY DUST PARTICLE: Certainly the smallest “bodies” in the Solar System, interplanetary dust particles, or IDPs, are microscopic. This one is about a tenth the width of a typical human hair, and is composed of glass, carbon, and a conglomeration of silicate mineral grains (akin to beach sand). IDPs are bits of comets and asteroids that originated in the early days of our Solar System. They are stored then later ejected by a passing comet. This IDP was “captured” by an aircraft flying high up in Earth’s atmosphere. In 2004, NASA’s STARDUST mission passed through the tail of comet Wild 2, collected cometary particles, and returned them to Earth for study. Primitive material like this offers scientists a glimpse into the conditions of the early Solar System. Image Credit: NASA
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