Monday, January 27, 2014

Solar Wind Creates Water in Star Dust, Implications for Life | VIDEO

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Solar Wind Creates Water in Star Dust, Implications for Life

By Charles Q. Choi

      Solar wind can form water on interplanetary dust, potentially adding to the primordial soup that gave rise to life on Earth, scientists say.

On Earth, there is life virtually everywhere water is found. Past research suggests much of this water may have come to Earth from comets raining down on the planet. But scientists have suggested another source of water in the airless void of space — the continuous flow of charged particles from the sun, a stream known as the solar wind.

This wind consists primarily of protons, the positively charged nuclei of hydrogen atoms. When these particles slam against oxygen-laden rocks — for instance, minerals known as silicates — they could in principle form water molecules.

The creation of water via the solar wind could help explain the presence of water on the moon and on asteroids. The wind could also have formed water on interplanetary dust, which, in turn, could have rained water down on Earth and other rocky planets.

"Interplanetary dust continually lands on the Earth and other solar system bodies," said study co-author Hope Ishii, an astromaterials scientist at the University of Hawaii. In the present day, Earth receives about 30,000 to 40,000 tons of interplanetary dust per year. This amount is thought to have been considerably higher when the Earth was young, because there was more interplanetary dust drifting through the solar system.

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