Interplanetary Dust Particles Can Jump-Start Life On Earth


A new discovery made by Manoa (UHM) School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and University of California – Berkeley illuminates that IDPs can deliver water and other organics not only to earth, but also to other terrestrial planets.

Dust that has arises from comets, asteroids, and leftover debris from the formation of a solar system is called interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), and it frequently falls down on Earth and other planetary bodies. These IDPs are barraged by solar wind, mostly consisting of hydrogen ions. This ion bombardment knocks the atoms out of order in the silicate mineral crystal and leaves behind oxygen that is vulnerable in reacting with hydrogen, for example, and creates 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, new Associate Researcher in the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) at UHM SOEST and co-author of the study. These raw elements of dust and hydrogen ions from their parent star would allow the procedure to happen in almost any planetary system, even to worlds that orbit around stars (exoplanets).

“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.”


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