Ancient comet dust found by NRL provides insights into the formation of the solar systemNews
June 19, 2019
WASHINGTON. Materials science researchers with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have found a remnant of ancient dust from the early stages of the solar system inside a primitive meteorite, named La Paz Icefield 02342 after the location of its discovery in Antarctica.
To examine these tiny grains within the larger particle, the researchers relied on an aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscope that can shape its emitted electron beam to optimize image quality and resolution.
This microscope, along with other state-of-the art measurement and nanofabrication equipment located in the NRL's Nanoscience Institute, enables the scientists and engineers to discover and develop new nanotechnology for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps.
The researchers validated the dust’s cometary heritage from its pre-solar grains, tiny particles of primarily carbon, which have a specific isotopic chemical signature not found in material originating within our solar system. The presence of glassy grains containing nanoscale iron metal and sulfides, which are commonly found in other studies of comet dust, also solidified the hypothesis.