By Science Daily, January 24, 2014
The surfaces of tiny interplanetary dust particles are space-weathered by the solar wind, causing amorphous rims to form on their surfaces. Hydrogen ions in the solar wind react with oxygen in the rims to form tiny water-filled vesicles (blue). This mechanism of water formation almost certainly occurs in other planetary systems with potential implications for the origin of life throughout the galaxy.
Researchers from the University of Hawaii -- Manoa (UHM) School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and University of California -- Berkeley discovered that interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) could deliver water and organics to Earth and other terrestrial planets.
Interplanetary dust, dust that has come from comets, asteroids, and leftover debris from the birth of the solar system, continually rains down on Earth and other Solar System bodies. These particles are bombarded by solar wind, predominately hydrogen ions. This ion bombardment knocks the atoms out of order in the silicate mineral crystal and leaves behind oxygen that is more available to react with hydrogen, for example, to create water molecules.
In future work, the scientists will attempt to estimate water abundances delivered to Earth by IDPs. Further, they will explore in more detail what other organic (carbon-based) and inorganic species are present in the water in the vesicles in interplanetary dust rims.
The above story is based on materials provided by University of Hawaii. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
1. J. P. Bradley, H. A. Ishii, J. J. Gillis-Davis, J. Ciston, M. H. Nielsen, H. A. Bechtel, M. C. Martin. Detection of solar wind-produced water in irradiated rims on silicate minerals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1320115111