Water trapped in star dust
Clouds of interstellar dust and gasoline, right here in the area “Cygnus-X” in the Swan constellation. Credit: ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Martin Hennemann & Frédérique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/Irfu – CNRS/INSU – Univ. Paris Diderot, France.

The subject between the celebs in a galaxy—known as the interstellar medium—is composed no longer handiest of gasoline, but additionally of quite a lot of dust. At some level in time, stars and planets originated in such an atmosphere, for the reason that dust particles can clump in combination and merge into celestial our bodies. Important chemical processes additionally happen on those particles, from which complicated natural—in all probability even prebiotic—molecules emerge.


However, for those processes to be imaginable, there must be water. In specifically chilly cosmic environments, water happens in the type of ice. Until now, on the other hand, the relationship between ice and dust in those areas of space was once unclear. A analysis group from Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has now confirmed that the dust particles and the ice are mixed. They file their findings in the present factor of the analysis magazine 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 acquire treasured data from this information. “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 end result would permit researchers to higher estimate the quantity of subject material and to make extra correct statements concerning the temperatures in other areas of the interstellar and circumstellar media.

Water trapped in star dust
Comparing the absorption spectra of a laboratory pattern (of silicates, water ice and natural compounds) and the diffuse interstellar medium from the Cygnus X famous person formation area (rotated area in the right-hand image). Both the laboratory pattern (crimson line) and the interstellar dust (white dots) display bands (blue bars) indicating the presence of solid-state water. Credit: Axel M. Quetz/Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie

Water trapped in dust

Through experiments and comparisons, scientists on the University of Jena additionally noticed what occurs with water when the temperatures building up and the ice leaves the forged frame to which it’s certain and passes into the gasoline section at about 180 Kelvin (-93 levels Celsius).

“Some water molecules are so strongly bound to the silicate that they remain on the surface or inside dust particles,” says Potapov. “We suspect that such ‘trapped water’ also exists on or in dust particles in space. At least that is what is suggested by the comparison between the spectra obtained from the laboratory experiments and those in what is called the diffuse interstellar medium. We found clear indications that trapped water molecules exist there.”

The lifestyles of such solid-state water suggests that complicated molecules will also be provide at the dust particles in the diffuse interstellar medium. If water is provide on such particles, it isn’t an excessively lengthy approach to complicated natural molecules, as an example. This is for the reason that dust particles typically encompass carbon, amongst different issues, which, in mixture with water and beneath the affect of ultraviolet radiation equivalent to that discovered in the surroundings, promotes the formation of methanol, as an example. Organic compounds have already been noticed in those areas of the interstellar medium, however till now it has no longer been identified the place they originated.

The presence of solid-state water too can resolution questions on some other part: even though we all know the quantity of oxygen in the interstellar medium, we prior to now had no details about the place precisely round a 3rd of it’s positioned. The new analysis effects counsel that the solid-state water in silicates is a hidden reservoir of oxygen.

Does solid-state water assist in the formation of planets?

In addition, the ‘trapped water’ can assist in working out how the dust accumulates, as it will advertise the sticking in combination of smaller particles to shape better particles. This impact will also paintings in planet formation. “If we succeed in proving that ‘trapped water’ existed—or could exist—in building blocks of the Earth, there might possibly even be new answers to the question of how water came to Earth,” says Alexey Potapov. But as but, those are handiest suppositions that the Jena researchers need to pursue in the longer term.


New experiments display complicated astrochemistry on skinny ice overlaying dust grains


More data:
Alexey Potapov et al, Dust/ice blending in chilly areas and solid-state water in the diffuse interstellar medium, Nature Astronomy (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-01214-x

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Friedrich Schiller University of Jena

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Astrophysicists prove that dust particles in space are mixed with ice (2020, September 22)
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