The University of Colorado-Boulder is involved in a new discovery practically in a galaxy far, far away. CU-Boulder found NASA’s Cassini spacecraft detected traces of dust coming from beyond the limits from our solar system.
The spacecraft is in orbit studying the rings and moons of giant planets like Saturn. Cassini sampled millions of ice-rich dust grains using its cosmic dust analyzer instrument. The tiny dust grains were speeding through the Saturn system at more than 45,000 mph. Out of the millions of little specks only a special few, about 36, stand out from the rest of the alien dust.
Usually, when cosmic dust is found, it’s old, pristine and diverse. The dust Cassini found is much more complex. The dust appears to be made by some sort of repetitive process in the interstellar medium. Scientist believe these few bits of material came from interstellar space. That’s the space between the stars. Which makes sense because cosmic dust is created when stars die.
CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Sascha Kempf believes these discoveries are very important.
“These new findings are highly relevant for understanding the formation and evolution of planetary systems as well as the interstellar medium," Kempf said.
For more information about Cassini, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini.