Mysteries of space dust unlocked
A new analysis of space dust has revealed that the cosmic particles, wich are likely to have originated from beyond our solar system, are more complex in composition and structure than previously imagined.
The dust analysis was carried out after a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission sent it back to earth for study in 2006.
The analysis tapped a variety of microscopy techniques including those that rely on synchrotron radiation.
"Synchrotrons are extremely bright light sources that enable light to be focused down to the small size of these particles while providing unprecedented chemical identification," explained Hans Bechtel, a principal scientific engineering associate at Berkeley Lab.
"Fundamentally, the solar system and everything in it was ultimately derived from a cloud of interstellar gas and dust," said Andrew Westphal, physicist at the University of California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.
"The analysis of these particles captured by Stardust is our first glimpse into the complexity of interstellar dust, and the surprise is that each of the particles are quite different from each other," informed Andrew Westphal, a physicist at University of California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.
This method provided an important screening tool for differentiating the origin of each particle, researchers noted.
The paper was published in the journal Science.
(Posted on 30-08-2014)