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'Exotic grains' that are 4.6 billion years old have been found in comets which formed at the start of the solar system, scientists have revealed.
These fragments of interstellar dust contain leftovers from when the universe formed and could teach us about the 'building blocks of planets and stars', scientists say.
Samples - Dust - Comets - Outer - Nebula
Surviving samples of this pre-solar dust are most likely to be preserved in comets that formed in the outer solar nebula.
This means they stayed clear of the destructive forces that created planets and have been left preserved in their original state for billions of years.
Solids - Start - System - Shapeless - Silicate
The initial solids created at the start of the solar system consisted entirely of shapeless silicate, carbon and ices.
However, this dust was typically destroyed and reworked by the processes which led to the formation of planets.
Samples - Dust - Formation - Universe - Astronomers
Samples of interstellar dust from the formation of the universe are rare, but can teach astronomers a huge amount.
Hope Ishii from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa led a team of researchers to search for surviving samples of this pre-solar dust in comets, which are cold bodies that generally avoid the violent creation of planets.
Comets - Sun - Settles - Earth - Orbit
As these comets pass the sun, they release dust that settles in Earth's orbit, which scientists are able to collect.
'Our observations suggest that these exotic grains represent surviving pre-solar interstellar dust that formed the very building blocks of planets and stars,' said Dr Ishii.
Fingertips - Materials - Planet - Formation - Years
'If we have at our fingertips the starting materials of planet formation from 4.6 billion years ago, that is thrilling and makes possible a deeper understanding of the processes that formed and have since altered them', she...
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