Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Carbon Found To Be Older Than The Solar System

Date:
April 14, 2004
Source:
Washington University In St. Louis
Summary:
For the first time, researchers have identified organic material in interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), gathered from the Earth's stratosphere, that was made before the birth of our Solar System.

April 9, 2004 — For the first time, researchers have identified organic material in interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), gathered from the Earth's stratosphere, that was made before the birth of our Solar System. The material was identified on the basis of its carbon isotopic composition, which is different from the carbon found on Earth and in other parts of the Solar System. Isotopes are variations of elements that differ from each other in the number of neutrons they have, making them similar chemically but different physically.

Christine Floss, Ph.D., senior research scientist in Earth and Planetary Sciences and Physics at Washington University in St. Louis, said that the organic material in the IDP she and her colleagues analyzed probably was formed in molecular clouds in the interstellar medium before the formation of the Solar System. The isotopic anomalies are produced by chemical fractionation at the very low temperatures found in these molecular clouds.

"Our findings are proof that there is presolar organic material coming into the Solar System yet today," Floss said. "This material has been preserved for more than 4.5 billion years, which is the age of the Solar System. It's amazing that it has survived for so long."

The finding helps in understanding the Solar System's formation and the origin of organic matter on Earth. The work was published in the Feb. 27, 2004 issue of Science, and was supported by NASA grants.

Over the past 20 years, researchers have found isotopic anomalies in nitrogen and hydrogen from IDPs but never before in carbon. Floss said one of the reasons for this was the limitations of earlier instruments. She and her colleagues used a new type of ion microprobe called the NanoSIMS, which enables researchers to analyze particles at much greater spatial resolution and higher sensitivity than before.Until recently, ion probes could only measure the average properties of an IDP.

In 2000, with help from NASA and the National Science Foundation, the University bought the first commercially available NanoSIMS. Made by Cameca in Paris, the NanoSIMS can resolve particles as small as 100 nanometers in diameter. A hundred thousand such particles side-by-side would make a centimeter. Typical sub-grains in IDPs range from 100 nanometers to 500 nanometers.

"The question has always been: Why don't we see any unusual carbon isotopic compositions?" Floss said. "The thinking was if the nitrogen and hydrogen isotopic anomalies are formed in the same regions of space, it was logical to expect unusual carbon isotopic compositions as well. One school of thought was that there were different fractionation processes with carbon in opposite directions, that cancelled out any anomalies produced. Another possibility was that the nitrogen and hydrogen might have been produced in phases that weren't originally organic - that the organic material itself was formed in the solar system and basically inherited the hydrogen and nitrogen isotopic compositions from some precursor material. But our isotopic analysis shows that the organic material was formed before the Solar System existed and was later incorporated into the IDP." Floss and Frank Stadermann, Ph.D., Washington University senior research scientist in Physics, worked with colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in drawing their conclusions.

"A lot of IDPs come from comets," Floss said. "It makes sense that organic material would be preserved in a very cold environment, such as where comets form at the edge of the Solar System. For something to stay this pristine and primitive, one can assume that it came from that kind of environment."

Floss said it's estimated that, over a million years, about a centimeter of carbonaceous material comes in the form of such cosmic dust and a significant amount of that material may be presolar in origin.

Floss said that her work builds on the pioneering work of the late Robert Walker, Ph.D., professor of Physics at Washington University. Walker was instrumental in the acquisition of the NanoSIMS and in the 1980s made landmark studies verifying the extraterrestrial origin of such stratospheric dust particles.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University In St. Louis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Washington University In St. Louis. "Carbon Found To Be Older Than The Solar System." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040414005217.htm>.
Washington University In St. Louis. (2004, April 14). Carbon Found To Be Older Than The Solar System. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040414005217.htm
Washington University In St. Louis. "Carbon Found To Be Older Than The Solar System." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040414005217.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) The B612 Foundation says asteroids strike Earth much more often than previously thought, and are hoping to build an early warning system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the 'Human to Mars Summit' in Washington, says that learning more about the Red Planet can help answer the 'fundamental question' of 'life beyond Earth'. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins