Are we alone in the universe? A new look at stardust suggests just the opposite, indicating that life may be universal.
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore Lab in California used electron microscopy to examine interplanetary dust collected from Earth's outer atmosphere. They found that the tiny particles contained pockets of water -- presumably created by interactions between the dust with the so-called "solar wind."
Why is that significant? As John Bradley, director of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the lab and the research leader, told The Huffington Post, "The two key ingredients for life on Earth are water and organic material. These particles arrived at the top of the atmosphere with both of the key ingredients for life."
And that, the scientists wrote in a paper about their research, suggests that as long as conditions are right, the particular type of water production is a "ubiquitous process throughout the solar system."
Since water is one of the main ingredients for life, the finding suggests that life may have arisen at different times and places throughout the universe.
"The implications are potentially huge," Hope Ishii, of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and one of the researchers, told New Scientist. "It is a particularly thrilling possibility that this influx of dust on the surfaces of solar system bodies has acted as a continuous rainfall of little reaction vessels containing both the water and organics needed for the eventual origin of life."
The research was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Jan. 21.