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‘Alien’ Grain of Dust Could Help Scientists Decode Solar System Origin

The Antarctic meteorite was found by NASA and later analyzed by scientists at the University of Toronto using state-of-the-art microscopes to study the atoms that make up the space rock. They found a small fragment containing an odd mix of graphite and silicate grains.

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Updated:May 2, 2019, 10:45 AM IST
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‘Alien’ Grain of Dust Could Help Scientists Decode Solar System Origin
Representative Image.

An “alien” grain of dust recently found inside a meteorite in Antarctica could shed light on how the Solar System came into existence.

Scientists believe the tiny speck of material was created by a distant star as it was destroyed in a huge explosion, long before the sun even existed.

“The little grains of stardust are thought to be key building materials in the birth of new stars and planets — as well as life as we know it,” The Sun reports.

The research was published in Nature Astronomy and gives new insights into the conditions of a dying star.

“As actual dust from stars, such presolar grains give us insight into the building blocks from which our solar system formed,” said Dr. Pierre Haenecour, lead author of the study.

“They also provide us with a direct snapshot of the conditions in a star at the time when this grain was formed.”

The Antarctic meteorite was found by NASA and later analyzed by scientists at the University of Toronto using state-of-the-art microscopes to study the atoms that make up the space rock. They found a small fragment containing an odd mix of graphite and silicate grains.

The tiny piece of material turned out to be stardust and has been named LAP-149 by scientists.

It is believed to have been formed 4.5 billion years ago following a violent star death known as a supernova explosion.

Interstellar journeys such as these are important to the formation of new star systems, The Sun quoted scientists as saying.

Scientists now hope to study bigger chunks of stardust in future to get a better idea of how life started in our Solar System.

“This kind of research, it’s part of a much larger debate of how life started on Earth,” said University of Toronto scientist Professor Jane Howe.

“We all care about who we are and where we came from.”

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