A NASA mission is about to capture carbon-rich dust from a former water world | Science


However, for these processes to be possible, there has to be water. In particularly cold cosmic environments, water occurs in the form of ice. Until now, however, the connection between ice and dust in these regions of space was unclear. A research team from Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has now proven that the dust particles and the ice are mixed. They report their findings in the current issue of the research journal Nature Astronomy.

Better modeling of physico-chemical processes in space

“Until now, we didn’t know whether ice is physically separated from the dust or mixed with individual dust moieties,” explains Dr. Alexey Potapov of the University of Jena. “We compared the spectra of laboratory-made silicates, water ice and their mixtures with astronomical spectra of protostellar envelopes and protoplanetary disks. We established that the spectra are congruent if silicate dust and water ice are mixed in these environments.”

Astrophysicists can gain valuable information from this data. “We need to understand different physical conditions in different astronomical environments, in order to improve the modeling of physico-chemical processes in space,” says Potapov. This result would enable researchers to better estimate the amount of material and to make more