Space Dust for Life

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 6,865
    NASA researchers at the Goddard Astrophysical Analytical Laboratory are using a novel technique to study extraterrestrial dust from asteroids and comets to analyze their organic compounds.

    Earth is constantly blasted with dust from comets and asteroids.  Researchers at NASA say that, despite their small size, these dust particles “may have provided higher quantities and steadier supply of extraterrestrial organic material to early Earth” than meteorite impacts.  But their extremely small size has kept them from being studied heavily.  Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory used a nanoflow liquid chromatography instrument to sort the molecules, then applied nanoelectrospray ionization to identify the molecules based on their mass.  They said they “are pioneering the application of these techniques for the study of meteorite organics.”  They also said that these techniques and any others they develop will be beneficial to future sample-return missions, such as ones to Mars, where sample size will be limited.