Water found - in outer space
27 January 2014, 13:26
Cape Town - The building blocks for life may be more common in space than previously thought as scientists have discovered water hidden within stardust.
According to a report on the NewScientist website, scientists discovered that the interstellar dust hid small pockets of water.
During chemical reactions in the lab, the radiation resulted in the formation of water, but the process had never been observed naturally occurring.
In space, the dust particles are zapped by the star's wind - highly charged particles - and the resultant reaction causes water to form.
Given that all planets are exposed to the interstellar dust, it could suggest that the building blocks for life could be present on many planets.
As for the formation of oceans on Earth though, it is unlikely that the water-laden dust could be responsible, said researcher Hope Ishii of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.
It is thought that the oceans on Earth were formed by multiple icy comet impacts.
However, the fact that the dust also contains carbon means that, combined with water, it could be a catalyst for life on Earth and other planets where ideal conditions exist.
The idea that the buildings blocks for life came from space is not new, but there has not been a great deal of evidence to support the theory of panspermia.
But the fact that life began quickly after the formation of the Earth has long puzzled scientists, and some have turned to space as a means of explaining where the building blocks of life originated.
"My personal opinion is that since space is so rich in these organic compounds, it must have played a role," said Dr Stephen J Mojzsis of the University of Colorado at Boulder.
"I don't think it's unreasonable to invoke the space medium as a source area for the raw materials to get life started because after all, space is close," he added.
This YouTube video animation attempts to explain how panspermia might work.