January 19, 2009

Cosmic dust forming around star

British astronomers say cosmic dust was partially created by the gradual death of carbon stars and not just from stars that exploded.

The astronomers have been watching cosmic dust form around a dying star in a nearby galaxy, similar to the primitive galaxies that formed soon after the big bang, said a release from the Science and Technology Facilities Council, which funded the study.

The newly observed dust formation was found around the carbon star MAG 29, located 280,000 light years away in a small galaxy known as the Sculptor Dwarf.

Cosmic dust is the building block for the formation of planets and life throughout the universe. As they die, stars produce smoke-like particles rich with carbon or oxygen, but less is known about how and what kind of dust was created in the original galaxies.

The research was led by scientists at Manchester University through the use of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, reported the journal Science.