Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Comet dust reveals unexpected mixing of solar system

22.09.2008
Chemical clues from a comet's halo are challenging common views about the history and evolution of the solar system and showing it may be more mixed-up than previously thought.

A new analysis of dust from the comet Wild 2, collected in 2004 by NASA's Stardust mission, has revealed an oxygen isotope signature that suggests an unexpected mingling of rocky material between the center and edges of the solar system.

Despite the comet's birth in the icy reaches of outer space beyond Pluto, tiny crystals collected from its halo appear to have been forged in the hotter interior, much closer to the sun.

The result, reported in the Sept. 19 issue of the journal Science by researchers from Japan, NASA and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, counters the idea that the material that formed the solar system billions of years ago has remained trapped in orbits around the sun. Instead, the new study suggests that cosmic material from asteroid belts between Mars and Jupiter can migrate outward in the solar system and mix with the more primitive materials found at the fringes.

"Observations from this sample are changing our previous thinking and expectations about how the solar system formed," says UW-Madison geologist Noriko Kita, an author of the paper.

The Stardust mission captured Wild 2 dust in hopes of characterizing the raw materials from which our solar system coalesced. Since the comet formed more than 4 billion years ago from the same primitive source materials, its current orbit between Mars and Jupiter affords a rare opportunity to sample material from the farthest reaches of the solar system and dating back to the early days of the universe. These samples, which reached Earth in early 2006, are the first solid samples returned from space since Apollo.

"They were originally hoping to find the raw material that pre-dated the solar system," explains Kita. "However, we found many crystalline objects that resemble flash-heated particles found in meteorites from asteroids."

In the new study, scientists led by Tomoki Nakamura, a professor at Kyushu University in Japan, analyzed oxygen isotope compositions of three crystals from the comet's halo to better understand their origins. He and UW-Madison scientist Takayuki Ushikubo analyzed the tiny grains — the largest of which is about one-thousandth of an inch across — with a unique ion microprobe in the Wisconsin Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (Wisc-SIMS) laboratory, the most advanced instrument of its kind in the world.

To their surprise, they found oxygen isotope ratios in the comet crystals that are similar to asteroids and even the sun itself. Since these samples more closely resemble meteorites than the primitive, low-temperature materials expected in the outer reaches of the solar system, their analysis suggests that heat-processed particles may have been transported outward in the young solar system.

"This really complicates our simple view of the early solar system," says Michael Zolensky, a NASA cosmic mineralogist at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"Even though the comet itself came from way out past Pluto, there's a much more complicated history of migration patterns within the solar system and the material originally may have formed much closer to Earth," says UW-Madison geology professor John Valley. "These findings are causing a revision of theories of the history of the solar system."

Noriko Kita | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.geology.wisc.edu

Further reports about: COMET Earth Jupiter Mars NASA Pluto Stardust comet crystals oxygen isotope solar system

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Solar wind impacts on giant 'space hurricanes' may affect satellite safety
19.09.2017 | Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

nachricht Integrated lasers on different surfaces
19.09.2017 | The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

Im Focus: Artificial Enzymes for Hydrogen Conversion

Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.

Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

IVAM’s LaserForum visits the Swiss canton of St. Gallen with the topic ultrashort pulse lasers

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Robust and functional – surface finishing by suspension spraying

19.09.2017 | Materials Sciences

The Wadden Sea and the Elbe Studied with Zeppelin, Drones and Research Ships

19.09.2017 | Earth Sciences

Digging sensors out of an efficiency hole

19.09.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>