Science blog
Map of the universe years in the making
Rogue bug may cause IVF failure
Technology decodes Alhambra inscriptions
Sonar causes deafness in dolphins
GM stem cells treat autoimmune disease
Nickel crash kick-started evolution
GPS inhalers track asthma triggers
Urban design turning kids off being active
Cleaning up oil spills can be bad for fish
Fluoro sensors to monitor recycled water
First cloned camel born in Dubai
Cephalopods share common toxic armoury
New evidence of aspirin risk for elderly
Salmonella vaccine could come from space
Porpoise-like sub swims with the current
Microbes thrive on iron under the ice
Blinking tower lights could save birds
Tradition can curb climate change: meeting
Coolest brown dwarf in universe found
'Silent' heart attacks quite common: study
World's land slipping in quality
Warning over 'natural' menopause therapies
Complex life pushed back in time
Lice may suppress asthma, allergies
  U2 comet dust predates solar system
An innovative plan to retrieve comet particles from earth's stratosphere has hit pay dirt, with the discovery that some predate the formation of the solar system.

"It was the largest number ever found," says Dr Henner Busemann of the University of Manchester's School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences.

The samples were collected by a high-altitude NASA research jet flying in April 2003 as the Earth travelled through the dusty wake of Comet 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup.

"This was the equivalent of sampling a meteor shower. Nobody had previously collected samples of a comet in that way," says Professor Donald Brownlee of the University of Washington, who heads a science team analysing particles returned by the Stardust spacecraft, which flew by Comet Wild-2 in January 2004.

Scientists believe our solar system was formed out of the exploded remains of an older star. Isotopic analysis of interplanetary dust particles, culled from meteorites and other sources, show some grains are older than the 4.5-billion-year-old solar system.

Scientists don't know how long interstellar dust grains can survive in space. They are made in stars and destroyed by shock waves, says Brownlee.
Richest haul

Thousands of grains have been analysed, but so far the richest haul of pre-solar particles appears to be from the sample collected on plastic plates covered in sticky silicon oil flown outside the NASA U2 aircraft.

The Stardust team has been looking for similar particles among its samples, but so far has come up empty-handed.

"All this is quite perplexing, actually," says Brownlee.

It's possible that the comets were made at different times and formed from a different variety of materials, says Brownlee, or that pre-solar grains from Wild-2 were destroyed as they were captured by the probe.

"It's a mystery," he says, "but that's what makes science run."

Busemann presented his findings the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science conference at the University of Hertfordshire.
Roads kill more than malaria: study
Seagrass link to seahorse upright posture
Black band disease hits Great Barrier Reef
Hobbit feet reignite debate
Lizards soak up sunshine vitamin
Canada sequences swine flu virus
Termites are a miner's best friend
'Hide and seek' costly to HIV
Giant trilobites had complex social lives
Midnight sun too much for some
More toxics added to 'dirty dozen' list
Rogue galaxies prompt rethink on Newton
Acupuncture relieves back pain: study
Blazars shed light on black hole physics
Unfaithful offspring get head start
Daydreamers might solve problems faster
Coal supply may be vastly overestimated
Science and unis are winners in the budget
Heartbeat key for blood growth in embryos
Neck pain worse for women in the office
Busty figurine a 'Paleolithic Playboy'
Plant cells help bees get a grip
Space trio to give sharper view of cosmos
Sea creatures inspire CO2 sponge
Genetic link between period onset and BMI
Researchers find bacteria in clouds
Sustainable farm research 'under threat'
Tree leaves monitor pollution levels
Stay upright during labour, say experts
Antarctic ice growth linked to ozone hole
Fires fuelling global warming: study
Methane climate shock 'less likely'
Genome map reveals cow's genetic makeup
Microbe bubble machine stores energy
Stress gives reef fish wonky ears
Swine flu remains a mystery
Perception is in the ear of the beholder
Solar wind gives asteroids a tanning
Researchers find grain's memory gene
PET bottles potential health hazard
Researchers find first common autism gene
Fossil fuel use must fall to 25%: study
'WaveRider' poised for hypersonic flight
Big cuttlefish 'at risk' from desalination
Glaciers show north-south climate divide
Mobile phones help cardiac rehab
Dancing birds feel the beat
Mushrooms may yield vitamin D bonanza
Dingoes may be a native's best friend
Dud treatments more easily spread
U2 comet dust predates solar system
Australian CO2 delay sends 'mixed message'
Visit Statistics