1st Student's Major

Physics and Astronomy

1st Student's College

Science, Engineering and Technology

Students' Professional Biography

Jacob Simones is a senior undergraduate student of physics and astronomy at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Upon completing his B.S., he plans to earn a PhD in either Physics or Astrophysics. He is interested in both teaching at a university and conducting research of his own, most likely astrophysical. Jacob is an officer for the newly founded Physics club and has been president of the Shotokan Karate club at MSU since 2005. When Jacob is not studying, he can always be found playing his guitar or running outdoors.

Mentor's Name

Russell Palma

Mentor's Email Address


Mentor's Department

Physics and Astronomy

Mentor's College

Science, Engineering and Technology


Since comets originated during the formation of the solar system, the processes of solar system formation can be better understood through compositional analysis of cometary material. A low density, silicon-based substance called aerogel was used by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft to collect coma samples from comet Wild 2. Aerogel not from the spacecraft (“non-flight”) was investigated to determine the possibility of measuring noble gases in Stardust samples. Gas evolved from heated, non-flight aerogel was measured initially using a residual gas analyzer, then a high-sensitivity massspectrometer. Levels of helium and neon isotopes observed from both instruments were sufficiently low that noble gases from Stardust samples were measured using the same technique. Intrinsic helium and neon was not identified in flight aerogel without apparent cometary material. Helium and neon were detected above background in flight samples containing impact particle tracks.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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