Oct 12, 2010 8:28 AM by Associated Press
An instrument designed by University of Colorado-Boulder students has traveled 1.67 billion miles from Earth as it gathers data about grains of dust, the building blocks of the solar system.
CU researchers say the dust counter onboard NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto has traveled farther than any other such instrument.
Students at CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics designed the dust counter, which was launched in 2006 and is now slightly beyond the orbit of Uranus.
Student Andrew Poppe tells the Daily Camera that the dust grains, really micrometeorites, are the building blocks of planets.
New Horizons is expected to encounter dust beyond Neptune's orbit that contains icy objects thought to encompass samples of ancient material formed billions of years ago.