Water Found In Stardust, And That Means Life Might Not Be Rare After All

Water Found In Stardust, And That Means Life Might Not Be Rare After All
Rosette nebula
Rosette nebula
John Chumack via Getty Images

Scientists have found evidence of water in distant stardust, and that might have huge implications for how we think about life.

A team at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu said that the dust which floats through our solar system appears to contain small droplets of water, which are formed when they collide with particles from the sun.

Combined with organic chemicals in those same dust clouds, it means that the ingredients for life could be far more abundant throughout the universe than first thought.

Of course, life would not be able to form without a friendly planet or moon, with the right amounts of light, warmth and liquid water. And that's still a tricky mix to get right.

But forming the elements themselves might not be such a problem - and that's a hugely important part of the tale.

"The implications are potentially huge," said Hope Ishii, one of the researchers, speaking to New Scientist.

If true, it would mean "this influx of dust on the surfaces of solar system bodies has acted as a continuous rainfall of little reaction vessels containing both the water and organics needed for the eventual origin of life".

The results were gathered by using ultra-high resolution microscopes to look at interplanetary dust in extreme detail. The water pockets inside are exceptionally small, but taken together are significant when you consider the amount of similar dust which can fall on planets like ours during their early years after formation.

Along with other methods by which water can arrive on a planet, including comets and asteroids, it means there are now at least three good ways for young worlds to get, well, wet. And while dust would not be enough to account for the oceans we see on Earth, it might just be enough to kickstart something, out there in the cosmos.

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