(ORDO NEWS) — The Earth is known to be in constant rain of cosmic dust, however, given its microscopic size, it has been very difficult to accurately quantify this material.
The size of such micrometeorites does not exceed a fraction of a millimeter; they separate and fall to Earth from comets and asteroids flying by.
Scientists have been collecting cosmic dust in Antarctica for two decades and have found that its total annual mass on our planet is about 5200 tons. These are particles less than 0.7 millimeters in size.
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This makes micrometeorites the largest source of extraterrestrial material brought to Earth’s surface, the researchers said.
The Earth’s atmosphere is filled with dust of all kinds. A study last year found that there are about 17 million metric tons of coarse dust in the atmosphere at any given time.
To minimize this “background” dust, the team conducted research at the Concordia Station in Antarctica. The station is located on the so-called “C” (Dome C) with coordinates 75 ° south latitude and 123 ° east longitude. In this area, there is practically no ground dust, and the rate of snow accumulation is low, which makes it possible to better track the speed of falling micrometeorites.
Having calculated the amount of cosmic dust near the station, scientists extrapolated this data to the entire globe, having received a figure of 5200 tons.
The next part of the study was to analyze the dust to determine its origin based on the density of the grains. Lower density and higher porosity suggest a cometary origin, while higher density and lower porosity suggest a meteoric origin.
Researchers have found that approximately 80 percent of the cosmic dust that reaches the Earth’s surface is ejected from comets.
According to the authors of the work, this study allows us to better evaluate the role of cosmic dust in the possible delivery of water and carbon molecules to Earth, which in turn can give us clues about the origin of life on the planet.
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