Scientists find interplanetary dust particles could bring water to Earth

January 27, 2014  |   |  2 Comments
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interplanetary dust particles

Interplanetary dust particles carry water generated with hydrogen solar wind.

Researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California – Berkeley discovered that interplanetary dust particles could deliver water and organics to the Earth and other terrestrial planets.

Interplanetary dust, dust that has come from comets, asteroids and leftover debris from the birth of the solar system, continually rains down on the Earth and other Solar System bodies. These particles are bombarded by solar wind, which knocks the atoms out of order and leaves behind oxygen that is more available to react with hydrogen, for example, to create water molecules.

“It is a thrilling possibility that this influx of dust has acted as a continuous rainfall of little reaction vessels containing both the water and organics needed for the eventual origin of life on Earth and possibly Mars,” said Hope Ishii, an associate researcher in UH Mānoa’s Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology and co-author of the study.

Implications of this work are potentially huge. Airless bodies in space such as asteroids and the Moon, with ubiquitous silicate minerals, are constantly being exposed to solar wind irradiation that can generate water. In fact, this mechanism of water formation would help explain remotely sensed data of the Moon, which discovered OH (hydroxide) and preliminary water, and possibly explains the source of water ice in permanently shadowed regions of the Moon.

“Perhaps more exciting,” said Ishii, “interplanetary dust, especially dust from primitive asteroids and comets, has long been known to carry organic carbon species that survive entering the Earth’s atmosphere, and we have now demonstrated that it also carries solar-wind-generated water. So we have shown for the first time that water and organics can be delivered together.”

It has been known since the Apollo-era, when astronauts brought back rocks and soil from the Moon, that solar wind causes the chemical makeup of the dust’s surface layer to change. Hence, the idea that solar wind irradiation might produce water-species has been around since then, but whether it actually does produce water has been debated.

Using a state-of-the-art transmission electron microscope, the scientists have now actually detected water produced by solar-wind irradiation in the space-weathered rims on silicate minerals in interplanetary dust particles.

In future work, the scientists will attempt to estimate water abundances delivered to Earth by interplanetary dust particles. Further, they will explore in more detail what other organic (carbon-based) and inorganic species are present in the water in the vesicles in interplanetary dust rims.

“Detection of solar wind-produced water in irradiated rims on silicate minerals” by UH Mānoa’s John Bradley, Ishii and Jeffrey Gillis-Davis and James Ciston, Michael Nielsen, Hans Bechtel and Michael Martin was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

For more, read the A UH Mānoa news release.

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Category: Research

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  1. editor-b says:

    Then, perhaps, is there fossils or life elsewhere? But, isn’t the emergence and maintenance of life a process of radical contingency? That is, is a unique and unrepeatable past totally necessary? Or does life emerge through space like mushrooms when some conditions are present? So, how many conditions are necessary: three, four, trillions, infinite? Only one, water or any sort of God? Is God the word that means infinite conditions, absolute necessity? Anyway, how did the life that emerge in a given conditions resist when switching to a different moment? How does life resist time itself, the effects of entropy? But, is it possible for human beings to recognise a simpler life than their own brain only? On the other hand, beyond likeness, is it possible to recognise a complex life than their brain, is this the extra-terrestrial life that some people are searching unsuccessfully? However, is there an origin of life or would it be as finding a cut in the material history of the universe, an infinite void that human language patches now? Along these lines, there is a peculiar book, a short preview in http://goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just another suggestion, far away from dogmas or axioms.

  2. HAVING THE RIGHT CONDITIONS AND RAW MATERIALS FOR LIFE doesn’t mean that life can originate by chance.

    Proteins can’t come into existence unless there’s life first! Miller, in his famous experiment in 1953, showed that individual amino acids (the building blocks of life) could come into existence by chance. But, it’s not enough just to have amino acids. The various amino acids that make-up life must link together in a precise sequence, just like the letters in a sentence, to form functioning protein molecules. If they’re not in the right sequence the protein molecules won’t work. It has never been shown that various amino acids can bind together into a sequence by chance to form protein molecules. Even the simplest cell is made up of many millions of various protein molecules.

    The probability of just an average size protein molecule arising by chance is 10 to the 65th power. Mathematicians have said any event in the universe with odds of 10 to 50th power or greater is impossible! The late great British scientist Sir Frederick Hoyle calculated that the the odds of even the simplest cell coming into existence by chance is 10 to the 40,000th power! How large is this? Consider that the total number of atoms in our universe is 10 to the 23rd power.

    Also, what many don’t realize is that Miller had a laboratory apparatus that shielded and protected the individual amino acids the moment they were formed, otherwise the amino acids would have quickly disintegrated and been destroyed in the mix of random energy and forces involved in Miller’s experiment.

    There is no innate chemical tendency for the various amino acids to bond with one another in a sequence. Any one amino acid can just as easily bond with any other. The only reason at all for why the various amino acids bond with one another in a precise sequence in the cells of our bodies is because they’re directed to do so by an already existing sequence of molecules found in our genetic code.

    Of course, once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic code and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could life or the cell have naturally originated when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM.

    A partially evolved cell would quickly disintegrate under the effects of random forces of the environment, especially without the protection of a complete and fully functioning cell membrane. A partially evolved cell cannot wait millions of years for chance to make it complete and living! In fact, it couldn’t have even reached the partially evolved state.

    Please read my popular Internet articles listed below:

    ANY LIFE ON MARS CAME FROM EARTH,
    SCIENCE AND THE ORIGIN OF LIFE,
    NATURAL LIMITS OF EVOLUTION,
    HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM,
    WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS (2nd Edition),
    NO HALF-EVOLVED DINOSAURS,
    DOES GOD PARTICLE EXPLAIN UNIVERSE’S ORIGIN?

    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

    Sincerely,
    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. theology/biology)

    Author of popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

    * I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East” for my writings on religion and science, and I have given successful lectures (with question and answer time afterwards) defending creation from science before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities.

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