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Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
New Horizons: Student Dust Counter

Studying Dust

Dust particles

Particles of space dust
(Courtesy NASA)

The goal of the Student Dust Counter (SDC) is to collect data on the dust peppering it during its journey across the solar system on its way to Pluto. So what is dust in space, and why is it important?

Dust in space is made up of tiny bits of asteroids and comets that are leftover from the formation of the solar system. These dust grains can help scientists answer questions about star and nebulae formation, as well as many other processes going on in the universe.

Grains of dust in space are tiny, typically about the same diameter as a human hair. Dust grains can be made up of many different elements, including carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, silicon, and even water ice.