Friday, December 15, 2006


Back to the drawing board. Time to revise all those hypothesis mascarading as 'facts'. And I like the cheeky commentary of this writer.

Scientists hope to dust off the origins of space and time

It's only a fraction of a thimble's worth of dust, but scientists around the world are buzzing about it altering our view of how the solar system formed and perhaps, depending on what else gets teased out of these tiny specks, of how life arose on Earth.

"For the first time, we have a sample of the material that was around when the solar system formed more than 4 billion years ago," said Don Brownlee, a University of Washington astronomer and lead scientist for NASA's $212 million Stardust mission.

Earlier this year, the Stardust space capsule returned to Earth (the Utah desert, to be precise) after traveling 2.9 billion miles over seven years. Two years ago, the spacecraft encountered a comet known as Wild 2 and collected dust by flying through its "coma" -- the cloud of ice, gas and dust at the front of the comet.

"We have found some amazing things," said the UW astronomer, citing as one example the discovery of a class of minerals known as calcium aluminum inclusions.

Holy cow! Calcium aluminum inclusions?

OK, even though most people likely haven't heard of this class of minerals, it turns out they are fairly interesting once Brownlee explains what they are -- and why finding them in an ancient comet was not to be expected.

"They are the oldest things in the solar system," he said, and they only form in extremely hot environments like that of a forming star, or the sun.

Yet comets such as Wild 2, according to the common wisdom, are formed of dust and ice to orbit out in the extremely cold regions at the edge of our solar system.

In short, comets shouldn't have any high-temperature calcium aluminum inclusions.

"That was, for me anyway, the biggest surprise," Brownlee said.

What this seems to imply, he said, is that the formation of the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago was either much more violent or the swirling proto-planetary material in space was much more "mixed" than most theoretical models suggest.



Find blog posts, photos, events and more off-site about:
, , , , , , , , ,

No comments: