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Study finds early interstellar dust that originated the planets

14 June 2018

According to the study, the interstellar dust dated back to some billions of years ago. When comets pass near the sun, they release the dust which can reach Earth's orbit and can settle through the atmosphere, and it can be collected and later they studied with electron microscopes.

An worldwide team, led by Hope Ishii, a researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa), studied the particles' chemical composition using infrared light at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS). Surviving samples of pre-solar dust are most likely to be preserved in comets-small, cold bodies that formed in the outer solar nebula.

The theory appeared viable but was not proven until the research team from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa) collected the interplanetary dust particles, aka IDPs, in question and took a closer look at them while working with the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Using this type of analysis, the scientists have determined that the dust contains something dubbed GEMS, which stands for glass with embedded metal and sulfides.

The researchers conclude by noting that their picture is incomplete, and much of the data is still rough-for instance, the elemental composition of GEMS sometimes only matches the solar elemental composition collectively, exhibiting chemical anomalies at higher resolution.

Researchers from University of Hawaii showed that the initial solids from which the solar system was formed consisted nearly entirely of amorphous silicate, carbon and ices.

The study was published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

GEMS are glassy tiny particles that are less than a hundredth of the thickness of a human hair or only tens to hundreds of nanometers in diameter. Some GEMS underwent processes that later on gave birth to the solar system, while some remained as interstellar dust.

The nanoscale GEMS subgrains are bound together by dense organic carbon in clusters comprising the GEMS grains.

The carbon that glues the grains and subgrains together disintegrate by the slightest temperature, the experiment revealed. The latter, as the researchers said, was low in density and decomposed even with the slight amount of heating - a fact that suggested that the GEMS may have formed in a cold environment like in the outer solar nebula, after trapping the leftover dust.

"Therefore, these interplanetary dust particles survived from the time before formation of the planetary bodies in the solar system and provide insight into the chemistry of those ancient building blocks", says Jim Ciston, a researcher at the lab's Molecular Foundry.

As per lead author Ishli, she said that if we have to do at our fingertips then the starting materials of the planet formation are from about 4.6 billion years ago and it is thrilling, and it makes it possible to go deeper to understand the processes which have formed.

Study finds early interstellar dust that originated the planets