Star chamber sparkles with space dust


Artificial star dust may help inform scientists how planets form © NASA/Ames/Farid Salama

Nasa has created star dust down here on Earth. The dust was produced in a lab by simulating the conditions found in the atmosphere of a red giant star.

Interstellar dust is normally produced by dying stars that eject this material into the space between stars. Eventually, after millions of years, this dust can coalesce to form planets. The cosmic simulation chamber (COSmIC) at Nasa’s Ames Research Center in the US can reproduce the harsh conditions found at the boundary of a star where temperatures fall to –173°C, particles are bathed in high intensity radiation and the vacuum of space prevails. Into this inhospitable environment the scientists fed a stream of argon seeded with the basic hydrocarbon ethyne. The COSmIC experiments produced particles just 10nm wide and grains ranging from 100 to 500nm in size, as well as aggregates 1.5µm in diameter. The researchers say that the work will help them to understand the kind of dust around stars and, in turn, how planets form from them. 


Related Content

Titanium oxides in stellar clouds finally pinned down

4 April 2013 Research

news image

Thirty year search ends after titanium dioxide is spotted around Big Dog star

Dinosaur mass extinction may have been triggered by acid rain

11 March 2014 Research

news image

Asteroid impact could have produced enough sulfur trioxide to dramatically lower ocean pH

Most Read

Magnetic resonance taken to the limit

21 November 2014 Research

news image

Technique can read the spin of a single nucleus opening up a new way to investigate proteins and complex molecules

Boron and beryllium finally shake hands

24 November 2014 Research

news image

Never-before-seen bond observed between periodic table neighbours

Most Commented

A year of water splitting from one device

21 November 2014 Research

news image

Coating protects electrodes from corrosion to keep photoelectrochemical cell running

Nanostripe controversy in new twist

24 November 2014 Research

news image

Creator of striped nanoparticles insists questions over structures have already been answered and accuses critics of a 'perso...