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

No-frills coats set a trend for designer viruses

26 August 2014 Research

news image

An artificial protein that self-assembles around and protects DNA could be ideal for gene therapy, nanomachines and synthetic...

Rigid molecular wires make electrons fly

29 August 2014 Research

news image

Organic wires conduct electrons 800 times faster than other molecular counterparts by letting them hitch a ride on a vibratio...

Most Commented

Rigid molecular wires make electrons fly

29 August 2014 Research

news image

Organic wires conduct electrons 800 times faster than other molecular counterparts by letting them hitch a ride on a vibratio...

Concerns over chemical treatment of reclaimed fracking fluid

29 August 2014 Research

news image

Current recycling procedure may do more harm than good