For the first time, researchers have identified organic material in interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), gathered from the Earth's stratosphere, that was made before the birth of our Solar System.
The material was identified on the basis of its carbon isotopic composition, which is different from the carbon found on Earth and in other parts of the Solar System. Isotopes are variations of elements that differ from each other in the number of neutrons they have, making them similar chemically but different physically.
Christine Floss, Ph.D., senior research scientist in Earth and Planetary Sciences and Physics at Washington University in St. Louis, said that the organic material in the IDP she and her colleagues analyzed probably was formed in molecular clouds in the interstellar medium before the formation of the Solar System. The isotopic anomalies are produced by chemical fractionation at the very low temperatures found in these molecular clouds.
"Our findings are proof that there is presolar organic material coming into the Solar System yet today," Floss said. "This material has been preserved for more than 4.5 billion years, which is the age of the Solar System. It's amazing that it has survived for so long."
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