Scientists Discover Space Dust In White Cliffs Of Dover

Posted: Sep 9 2017, 9:35pm CDT | by , Updated: Sep 9 2017, 9:46pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Scientists Discover Space Dust in White Cliffs of Dover
Researcher Martin Suttle takes samples from white cliffs of Dover. Credit: Imperial College London
 

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The fossilized cosmic dust could reveal more about the early solar system

Researchers have discovered hundreds of millions of years old cosmic dust embedded in white cliffs of Dover in England. The discovery is important because it could help explain what solar system was like at the beginning and how it has changed through times.

“The iconic white cliffs of Dover are an important source of fossilized creatures that help us determine the changes and upheavals the planet has undergone many millions of years ago. It is so exciting because we’ve now discovered that fossilized space dust is entombed alongside these creatures, which can also provide us with information about what was happening in our solar system at the time.” Martin Suttle, lead author from Imperial College London’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering said in a statement.

Space is a very dusty place. Every day, around 60 tons of cosmic dust falls into Earth’s atmosphere. Although this amount of cosmic dust seems a lot to us, it is very small on the scale of solar system bodies and it mostly went undetected.

With the latest discovery, researchers have found a way to sample the chemistry of cosmic dust. The analysis will determine if cosmic dust was clay-rich. Clay can only form in the presence of water, so finding fossilized cosmic dust could help locate water rich asteroids in our solar system.

“In the distant future, asteroids could provide human space explorers with valuable stop offs during long voyages. Being able to source water is vital because it can be used to drink, to make oxygen and even fuel to power spacecraft. The relevance of our study is that cosmic dust particles that land on Earth could ultimately be used to trace where these water-rich asteroids may be, providing a valuable tool for mapping this resource.” Dr Matt Genge from Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering said.

There is much about cosmic dust that researchers do not understand. This is because most of fossilized cosmic dust is not well preserved. Cosmic dust has been previously found in rocks up to 2.7 billion years old. Now, they have a new source of cosmic dust, which is much older and could help them understand events beyond Earth such as major collisions between asteroids up to 98 million years ago – a time when cosmic dust records have been difficult to find.

The presense of cosmic dust was detected through its distinctive spherical structure and christmas tree-like shape of their crystal content.

Next, researchers are hoping to trace the origins of the cosmic dust to asteroids orbiting the solar system.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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