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

Higher levels of some metals in e-cigarette smoke

8 September 2014 Research

news image

Scientists call for regulators to help clear smoke and mirrors surrounding vaping safety

Isotope effect produces new type of chemical bond

22 October 2014 Research

news image

Evidence emerges for vibrational bond first proposed 30 years ago

Most Commented

Higher levels of some metals in e-cigarette smoke

8 September 2014 Research

news image

Scientists call for regulators to help clear smoke and mirrors surrounding vaping safety

Not all science is created equal

16 October 2014 Comments

news image

John Ioannidis explains why researchers should be curious about the differences between disciplines