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NASA Scientists Recreate Space Dust In The Lab

Update Date: May 12, 2014 09:34 AM EDT

NASA scientists have reportedly recreated dust grains that are formed in the outer layers of dying stars. The creation of such an environment will enable scientists to gain a deep insight into the evolution and composition of the universe. 

Scientists at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., performed the experiment in a specialized facility called Cosmic Simulation Chamber (COSmiC). They recreated the dust and gas found in the atmosphere of a red giant star, which eventually leads to the formation of the planet-forming interstellar dust.

Dust grains are known to be the key component of the universe's evolution. These are also widely seen surrounding a dying star emitting into the interstellar medium that leads to the formation of planets. 

"The harsh conditions of space are extremely difficult to reproduce in the laboratory, and have long hindered efforts to interpret and analyze observations from space," said Farid Salama, project leader and a space science researcher at Ames, in a press release. "Using the COSmIC simulator we can now discover clues to questions about the composition and the evolution of the universe, both major objectives of NASA's space research program."

Previously, it was a challenging task to detect the extraterrestrial materials due to failed attempts of simulating space conditions in gaseous state. However, with the help of COSmiC, researchers have managed to simulate the gas and dust similar to the interstellar clouds. 

"By using COSmIC and building up on the work we recently published in the Astrophysical Journal August 29, 2013, we now can for the first time truly recreate and visualize in the laboratory the formation of carbon grains in the envelope of stars and learn about the formation, structure and size distribution of stellar dust grains," said Cesar Contreras of the Bay Area Environmental Research (BAER) Institute and a research fellow at Ames, according to Science World Report. "This type of new research truly pushes the frontiers of science toward new horizons, and illustrates NASA's important contribution to science."

The research was funded through the Laboratory Astrophysics Carbon-in-the-Galaxy consortium program.

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