A study conducted by researchers at the University of Sorbonne in Paris determined that our planet “Gains weight” in a surprising way: with thousands of tons of space dust that fall on us every year. 

Cosmo-chemist Jean Duprat and his colleagues dug three trenches in the Antarctic snow in search of micrometeorites. The chosen location was the “Dome C”, one of the “peaks” of the Antarctic plateau, about 1.100 km from the coast of the continent.

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The material was collected from two meters deep, that is, snow accumulated before 1995, when the base French on the spot has been established. Thus, scientists could be sure that the material found would not be the result of contamination by human activity at the site.

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Using ultra-clean tools they collected hundreds of pounds of snow, melted the material and filtered the water. As a result, they found almost 2.000 micrometeorites.

Their size ranges from 30 to 350 micrometers, and together they weigh no more than a fraction of a gram. Of this total, 808 spheres were partially melted during the entry into our atmosphere and 1.280 showed no damage.

Some of the micrometeorites found by Jean Duprat and his team
Some of the micrometeorites found by Jean Duprat and his team. Left and right images by J. Duprat and C. Engrand / CNRS. Central images by C. Engrand and L. Delaunche / CNRS.

All of these micrometeorites were found in an area of ​​a few square meters. Assuming that particles of space dust fall on Antarctica at the same rate as on the rest of the planet, the team was able to estimate how much space dust falls across the planet in one year: about 5.200 tons.

Researchers estimate that about 80% of micrometeorites originate from Comets that pass most of their orbits closer to the Sun than Jupiter. The rest would be derived from collisions with objects in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 

Duprat and his colleagues suggest that these tiny particles together deliver between 20 to 100 tonnes of carbon to Earth each year, and could have been an important source of carbon-rich compounds, such as amino acids, during the beginning of history. of our planet.

Source: Science News