Social Media Sidebar

Announcement

Please sign up, comment on articles and bring your friends!

Current poll

PlanetTech is asking:

What do you think about our new web site?

Love it, indeed
Really good solution
Same as old one
The old one was better
This is a new option

Quote of the day

'By far the greatest danger of Artificial Intelligence is that people conclude too early that they understand it'

 

Eliezer Yudkowsky

What is interplanetary dust and can it spread the ingredients of life?

RATE THIS! +24
Posted in Science on 17th Nov, 2015 01:37 AM by AlexMuller

NASA reported that a cloud of dust was surrounding Mars high above its atmosphere. The authors of the study ruled out Mars itself and its moons Phobos and Deimos as the sources of the dust and concluded that it must come from a larger dust cloud floating around between the planets in our solar system.

 
This “interplanetary dust” is hugely important. It is thought to have played a crucial role in the formation and evolution of our solar system. What’s more, it may even have provided our planet with water, and kick-started life.
 
Our solar system formed from the collapse of a hydrogen and helium gas cloud mixed with dust, otherwise there would not be any rocky planets like Earth and Mars. The fact that Earth contains such heavy elements as gold, lead, or uranium (all heavier than iron) shows that our sun is a third or higher-generation star, preceded by at least one supernova explosion of another nearby star.
 
Interstellar dust particles, which predate our own solar system, can provide insight into the processes at the end of the lifetime of ancient stars. The interplanetary dust in the inner solar system contains some interstellar dust particles. But the vast majority of interplanetary dust particles in our solar system are released from comets as they approach the sun or from the collision of asteroids in the asteroid belt.
 
They therefore contain clues about the makeup and formation of such “proto-planets”, which are seen as the first steps of planet formation from the huge dust and gas cloud surrounding a new star.
 
Any cosmic dust mineral grain offers a surface for gases, ice or organic matter to stick to. Complex molecules of organic matter as the basic building blocks for life have been documented in intergalactic dust clouds, comets and meteorites.
 
Understanding the distribution and amount of dust is important because dust could have delivered significant amounts of water and organic matter to the planets in the inner solar system, in particular Earth and Mars. While many researchers think that asteroid and comet impacts may be behind the water and life on Earth, several studies have indicated that dust itself can deliver water and organic matter simultaneously and might have jump-started life. This process would work universally, also on exoplanets in distant solar systems.
 
So if the dust did jump start life on Earth it is plausible that it could have done so on Mars as well. However, Earth’s magnetic field has protected our atmosphere and water against being destroyed by the solar wind, we get just the right amount of it. Mars has not had a magnetic field for most of its lifetime, and its atmosphere and water have subsequently been lost to space.
 
Without water, organic matter molecules cannot be assembled into the very complex molecules, like DNA and proteins, that make up life. Lack of a thick atmospheric layer also means lack of protection against destruction of organic molecules by UV light and other harmful forms of cosmic radiation. While the jury is still out on whether there was ever life on Mars, it is extremely unlikely that dust could jump start life on Mars today, despite hovering above its atmosphere.
 
It is obviously important that we learn more about dust. Interplanetary dust particles are actively collected for research by sending planes into the stratosphere or scouring spacecraft returning to land for impacts of these tiny dust particles. If dust particles make it to the ground by themselves, they can be collected as micrometeorites from places where they are recognisable such as ocean or polar sediments.
 
However, once an interplanetary dust particle enters the Earth’s atmosphere or smashes into a spacecraft, any complex molecules stuck to it are inevitably lost. While we can learn a lot from them about the primordial matter from which our solar system formed as well as the makeup of comets and asteroids, we have to investigate these bodies first-hand to be able to obtain more sensitive information.
 
A good way to do this is to fly through comet tails. This is what Rosetta did to make the surprise discovery of free oxygen in the coma of comet 67P/Chryumov-Gerasimenko. Meanwhile, NASA’s Stardust mission flew through the tail of comet Wild 2 and returned cosmic dust particles to Earth for analysis in 2006. In 2009, NASA announced that fundamental chemical building blocks of life had been found: glycine, an amino acid.
 
Additional data like this can hopefully help uncover many more secrets of the dust in the universe, including whether it kick-started life on Earth and whether it could do it again.

Tags: spaceMarsNASAlifechemistrydustsolar systemplanetbiology

Read original article » Back to category

Comments



 

Recent headlines

  • Posted in Business on 2017-03-26 19:56:28
    The U.S. will be hit worse by job automation than other.....read more
    Posted in Business on 2017-03-26 19:49:51
    Elon Musk says Tesla will start taking orders for Solar.....read more
    Posted in Science on 2017-03-26 19:39:27
    Impact crater linked to Martian tsunamis..read more
    Posted in Software on 2017-03-25 14:13:38
    Google Develops A Deep Learning Machine That Could Learn.....read more
    Posted in Medicine on 2017-03-25 14:26:25
    Google’s Calico partners with new biotech firm to.....read more
Posted in Business on 2013-10-10 01:33
China is working towards a manned lunar mission in about.....read more
Posted in Business on 2013-10-20 07:17
Spacex says China is their main competitor for commercial.....read more
Posted in Software on 2013-10-20 06:43
Pirate Bay Browser Clocks 1,000,000 Downloads..read more
Posted in Medicine on 2013-10-10 02:10
Google reportedly investing hundreds of millions into new.....read more
Posted in Medicine on 2013-10-14 03:13
Endothelial Cells Can Repair and Regenerate Organs,.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Spacex says China is their main competitor for commercial.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Staring at Your Phone Could Be Making You Short Sighted..read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Oculus Rift virtual reality headset coming to mobile, but.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
China is working towards a manned lunar mission in about.....read more
Posted in Science on 01.01.2010
Delivering drugs via nanoparticles to target mitochondria..read more

Recent Blog Posts

  • Posted by AlexMuller
    Intensive medical treatment can reverse type 2 diabetes..read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Daily consumption of tea protects the elderly from cognitive.....read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    New analysis method of metabolites accurately predicts whether.....read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Unproven stem cell 'therapy' blinds three patients at Florida.....read more
    Posted by AlexMuller
    Indigenous South American group has healthiest arteries of all.....read more

Login to your Account

Login to your PlanetTech Account here

Username:
Password:
Remember me
or

Create a New Account

You just need username and password

The following errors occured:
Username:
Email:
Password:
Verify password:
Remember me