Interstellar Comet Dust Holds Clues About the Solar System

Comets like Hale Bopp, seen here, can release dust that can make its way into Earth’s stratosphere, where we can collect and study it. Credit: Philipp Salzgeber, CC license (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Scientists are following a trail of interstellar dust all the way back to the formation of the solar system.

By Chelsea Gohd |

What we now know as the solar system began as a cloud of interstellar dust and gas. By studying „pre-solar“ dust, which was preserved in cosmic objects like comets before they made their way to Earth, scientists can peer back in time to the early solar system.

Every year, tons of cosmic dust falls from space onto Earth’s atmosphere. NASA uses aircraft with special „sticky“ collectors coated with silicone oil to catch dust at high altitudes before it has been too contaminated by our planet. A team of researchers, led by Hope Ishii, a materials scientist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is studying an obscure type of interplanetary dust particles that fall to Earth from space. [Solar System Explained From the Inside Out (Infographic)]

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