Meteorites, Asteroids, & Comets: November 2009

Dust samples collected by high-flying aircraft in the upper atmosphere have yielded an unexpectedly rich trove of relicts from the ancient cosmos, report scientists from NAI's Carnegie Institution of Washington team in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The stratospheric dust includes minute grains that likely formed inside stars that lived and died long before the birth of our sun, as well as material from molecular clouds in interstellar space. This "ultra-primitive" material likely wafted into the atmosphere after the Earth passed through the trail of an Earth-crossing comet in 2003, giving scientists a rare opportunity to study cometary dust in the laboratory.