Star Dust

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Science  11 Feb 1977:
Vol. 195, Issue 4278, pp. 541-546
DOI: 10.1126/science.195.4278.541


Infrared astronomy has shown that certain classes of stars are abundant producers of refractory grains, which condense in their atmospheres and are blown into interstellar space by the radiation pressure of these stars. Metallic silicates of the kind that produce terrestrial planets are injected by the oxygen-rich stars and carbon and its refractories by carbon stars. Much of the interstellar dust may be produced by this mechanism. A number of "infrared stars" are completely surrounded by their own dust, and a few of these exhibit a unique morphology that suggests the formation of a planetary system or a stage in the evolution of a planetary nebula. Certain novae also condense grains, which are blown out in their shells.

In our own solar system, comets are found to contain the same silicates that are present elsewhere in the galaxy, suggesting that these constituents were present in the primeval solar nebula.