Researchers from Imperial College London have discovered 87-million-year-old Space Dust in white cliffs of Dover in the UK—a finding that could shed more light on the events that were happening in the solar system before the Earth came into existence.

Researchers revealed that a total of 76 galactic specks were found in the white chalk of the cliff. These micrometeorite pieces were found to be dating back to Coniacian age. In the past decades, researchers have found a large number of fossils in the iconic white cliffs of Dover. The space dust discovered by Imperial College researchers was found alongside the fossils of some ancient creatures.

What is space dust?

Phys.Org explain that Space dust particles are the pulverized remnants of comet and asteroid collisions in our solar system. These micrometeorites are comprised of microscopic particles. Earth receives about 30,000 tonnes of celestial shimmer each year, but this dust is difficult to trace due to the small size of the particles. Identifying fossilized cosmic dust is even more difficult for researchers as the fossilization process replaces the original mineral content in the dust with other materials. Previously, scientists had overlooked white cliffs of Dover for finding space dust, because the fossilization process had concealed the actual identity of these particles.

The study’s lead researcher, Martin Suttle, said this discovery is “exciting” as it can provide vital information about the events that happened in the solar system millions of years ago.

Researchers have also devised a technique to find out if cosmic dust contains clay

Continuing their efforts in another study, the same team claimed to have devised a technique to find out if a sample of cosmic dust is rich in clay. Clay is formed only in presence of water, and therefore a cosmic dust sample having clay content indicates the presence of water-rich asteroids in space.

Dr. Matt Genge of Imperial College explains that being able to determine the presence of water in cosmic dust is a significant discovery as future astronauts going on long voyages in space could use water present on asteroids for drinking or making spacecraft fuel.

This team also claims to have discovered a new technique which allows researchers to examine less well preserved cosmic dust. Mr. Suttle claims that their latest research allows examination of such samples as well.

The detailed findings of the study were published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.