Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cosmic connections: Imperial scientist locates the origin of cosmic dust

03.09.2008
The origin of the microscopic meteorites that make up cosmic dust has been revealed for the first time in new research out Monday (1 September 2008).

The research, published in the journal Geology, shows that some of the cosmic dust falling to Earth comes from an ancient asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. This research improves our knowledge of the solar system, and could provide a new and inexpensive method for understanding space.

Cosmic dust particles, originally from asteroids and comets, are minute pieces of pulverised rock. They measure up to a tenth of a millimetre in size and shroud the solar system in a thin cloud. Studying them is important because their mineral content records the conditions under which asteroids and comets were formed over four and a half billion years ago and provides an insight into the earliest history of our solar system.

The study’s author, Dr Mathew Genge, from Imperial College London’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering, has trekked across the globe collecting cosmic dust. He says:

“There are hundreds of billions of extraterrestrial dust particles falling though our skies. This abundant resource is important since these tiny pieces of rock allow us to study distant objects in our solar system without the multi-billion dollar price tag of expensive missions.”

The origin of the cosmic dust that lands on Earth has always been unclear. Scientists previously thought that analysing the chemical and mineral content of individual dust particles was the key to tracing their origin. But this study suggests that a comparison of multiple particles gives better results.

To pinpoint the cosmic dust’s origin, Dr Genge analysed more than 600 particles, painstakingly cataloguing their chemical and mineral content and reassembling them like a complex jigsaw. Dr Genge comments:

“I’ve been studying these particles for quite a while and had all the pieces of the puzzle, but had been trying to figure out the particles one by one. It was only when I took a step back and looked at the minerals and properties of hundreds of particles that it was obvious where they came from. It was like turning over the envelope and finding the return address on the back.”

Dr Genge found that the cosmic dust comes from a family of ancient space rocks called Koronis asteroids, which includes 243 Ida, widely photographed by the NASA Galileo probe. The rocks are located in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and were formed around two billion years ago when a much larger asteroid broke into pieces. Further analysis shows that the dust originates from a smaller grouping of 20 space rocks within the Koronis family called Karin asteroids. It comes from an ancient chondrite rock, common in Karin asteroids, which was formed in space at the birth of the solar system.

Chondrite meteorites often fall to Earth and Dr Genge was able to match the mineralogy and chemistry of the dust particles with chondrite meteorite samples previously collected. He backed up the cosmic dust’s origin with infrared astronomical satellite data which showed Karin asteroids grinding and smashing against one another to create cosmic dust.

Dr Genge says his research holds exciting possibilities for a deeper understanding of our early solar system. He concedes that analysing space dust will never entirely replace space missions, but adds that we may not have to visit so many different places. He concludes:

“This research is the first time we have successfully demonstrated a way to locate the home of these important little particles. The answer to so many important questions, such as why we are here and are we alone in the universe, may well lie inside a cosmic dust particle. Since they are everywhere, even inside our homes, we don’t necessarily have to blast off the Earth to find those answers. Perhaps they are already next to you, right here and right now.”

Colin Smith | alfa
Further information:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk
http://www.gsajournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-toc&issn=0091-7613

Further reports about: Asteroid Cosmic Jupiter Mars comets cosmic dust meteorites pulverised rock solar system

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Seeing the quantum future... literally
16.01.2017 | University of Sydney

nachricht Airborne thermometer to measure Arctic temperatures
11.01.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

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: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>