Posted on Oct 7, 2011

I just received the most awesome thing in the mail from NASA: a block of aerogel incased in one of the original boxes (see the inscribed number on the box) that held a block of aerogel for NASA’s Stardust spacecraft. Aerogel was used in the spacecraft to capture pieces of interstellar dust by impacting a comet. As you can tell from the photographs below, aerogel is not very easy to photograph: it’s the lightest solid on Earth: 99.8% of it is made of air. It’s also like fiberglass, hence I used plastic wrap to handle it carefully.

Jealous? There’s actually a way for you to look at pieces of interstellar dust in blocks of aerogel while helping further scientific discoveries at the same time! Stardust@home is a project where anyone can go and collaborate with scientists to find pieces of interstellar dust in images of aerogel – there’s simply so much aerogel to go through that it’s more than any one person could do in a lifetime. So, I recommend signing up!

Update: apparently there’s also open source ways to create your own aerogel (though, the materials can be dangerous/cancerous, so please be careful).

aerogel from NASA

aerogel from NASA

aerogel from NASA

aerogel from NASA


  1. Faaeteete Lene
    October 7, 2011

    That’s totally awesome i didn’t even know such a thing existed! Way cool :)

  2. Christopher Lunsford
    October 7, 2011

    Almost looks photoshop’d, wow!

  3. Henny Swan
    October 7, 2011

    Incredible, it’s as if you have a ghost sitting in the palm of your hand.

  4. Will
    October 8, 2011

    There’s a great open source of information about aerogel at, with recipes and DIY info.

  5. Ariel Waldman
    October 8, 2011

    @Will – awesome – thanks so much for sharing this resource! Maybe we will try it out at this year!

  6. Mark Jaquith
    October 9, 2011

    They just covered aerogel on Penn & Teller’s latest TV series. Had a 1700° F flamethrower hitting it on one side, and a scientist touching the other side with his bare palm. Impressive.

    What does it feel like? It is squishy?

  7. Tom
    December 8, 2011

    It’s like holding a hand full steam! Very cool!

  8. emrah
    December 16, 2011

    you’r lucky! :)