Serendipitous Juno Spacecraft Detections Shatter Ideas About Origin of Zodiacal Light


Look up to the night sky just before dawn, or after dusk, and you might see a faint column of light extending up from the horizon. That luminous glow is the zodiacal light, or sunlight reflected toward Earth by a cloud of tiny dust particles orbiting the Sun. Astronomers have long thought that the dust is brought into the inner solar system by a few of the asteroid and comet families that venture in from afar.

Photo of zodiacal light extending above the horizon
This photo shows the zodiacal light as it appeared on March 1, 2021, in Skull Valley, Utah. The Pleiades star cluster is visible near the top of the light column. Mars is just below that.Credits: Credits: NASA/Bill Dunford

But now, a team of Juno scientists argues that Mars may be the culprit. They first published their finding online on Nov. 11, 2020, in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

An instrument aboard the Juno spacecraft serendipitously detected dust particles slamming into the spacecraft during its journey from Earth to Jupiter. The impacts provided important clues to the origin and orbital evolution of the dust, resolving some mysterious variations of the zodiacal light.Though their discovery has big implications, the scientists who spent years studying cosmic debris did not set out to do so. “I never thought we’d be looking for interplanetary dust,” said John Leif Jørgensen, a professor at the Technical University of Denmark.

Jørgensen designed the four star trackers that are part of Juno’s magnetometer investigation. These onboard cameras snap photos of the sky every quarter of a second to determine Juno’s orientation in space by recognizing star patterns in its images — an engineering task essential to the magnetometer’s accuracy.

But Jørgensen hoped his cameras might also catch sight of an undiscovered asteroid. So he programmed one camera to report things that appeared in multiple consecutive images but weren’t in the catalog of known celestial objects.

He didn’t expect to see much: Nearly all objects in the sky are accounted for in the star catalog. So when the camera started beaming down thousands of images of unidentifiable objects — streaks appearing then mysteriously disappearing — Jørgensen and his colleagues were baffled. “We were looking at the images and saying, ‘What could this be?’” he said.

Jørgensen and his team considered many plausible and some implausible causes. There was the unnerving possibility that the star camera had caught a leaking fuel tank on Juno. “We thought, ‘Something is really wrong,’” Jørgensen said. “The images looked like someone was shaking a dusty tablecloth out their window.”

It wasn’t until the researchers calculated the apparent size and velocity of the objects in the images that they finally realized something: Dust grains had smashed into Juno at about 10,000 miles (or 16,000 kilometers) per hour, chipping off submillimeter pieces. “Even though we’re talking about objects with only a tiny bit of mass, they pack a mean punch,” said Jack Connerney, Juno’s magnetometer investigation lead, and the mission’s deputy principal investigator, who’s based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

As it turned out, the spray of debris was coming from Juno’s expansive solar panels — the biggest and most sensitive unintended dust detector ever built.

“Each piece of debris we tracked records the impact of an interplanetary dust particle, allowing us to compile a distribution of dust along Juno’s path,” Connerney said. Juno launched in 2011. After a deep-space maneuver in the asteroid belt in 2012, it returned to the inner solar system for an Earth gravity assist in 2013, which catapulted the spacecraft towards Jupiter.

This visualization shows NASA’s Juno’s spacecraft on its five-year flight path to Jupiter, beginning with its launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2011.Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; flight path animation courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI

Connerney and Jørgensen noticed that the majority of dust impacts were recorded between Earth and the asteroid belt, with gaps in the distribution related to the influence of Jupiter’s gravity. According to the scientists, this was a radical revelation. Before now, scientists have been unable to measure the distribution of these dust particles in space. Dedicated dust detectors have had limited collection areas and thus limited sensitivity to a sparse population of dust. They mostly count the more abundant and much smaller dust particles from interstellar space. In comparison, Juno’s expansive solar panels have 1,000 times more collection area than most dust detectors.

Juno scientists determined that the dust cloud ends at Earth because Earth’s gravity sucks up all the dust that gets near it. “That’s the dust we see as zodiacal light,” Jørgensen said.

As for the outer edge, around 2 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun (1 AU is the distance between Earth and the Sun), it ends just beyond Mars. At that point, the scientists report, the influence of Jupiter’s gravity acts as a barrier, preventing dust particles from crossing from the inner solar system into deep space. This same phenomenon, known as orbital resonance, also works the other way, where it blocks dust originating in deep space from passing into the inner solar system.

The profound influence of the gravity barrier indicates that the dust particles are in a nearly circular orbit around the Sun, Jørgensen said. “And the only object we know of in almost circular orbit around 2 AU is Mars, so the natural thought is that Mars is a source of this dust,” he said.

A team of Juno scientists argues that Mars may be responsible for the interplanetary dust behind the zodiacal light, a faint column of light extending up from the horizon. An instrument aboard the Juno spacecraft serendipitously detected dust particles slamming into the spacecraft during its journey from Earth to Jupiter. The impacts provided important clues to the origin and orbital evolution of the dust. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Download video and animations here

“The distribution of dust that we measure better be consistent with the variation of zodiacal light that has been observed,” Connerney said. The researchers developed a computer model to predict the light reflected by the dust cloud, dispersed by gravitational interaction with Jupiter that scatters the dust into a thicker disk. The scattering depends only on two quantities: the dust inclination to the ecliptic and its orbital eccentricity. When the researchers plugged in the orbital elements of Mars, the distribution accurately predicted the tell-tale signature of the variation of zodiacal light near the ecliptic. “That is, in my view, a confirmation that we know exactly how these particles are orbiting in our solar system,” Connerney said, “and where they originate.”

While there is good evidence now that Mars, the dustiest planet we know of, is the source of the zodiacal light, Jørgensen and his colleagues cannot yet explain how the dust could have escaped the grip of Martian gravity. They hope other scientists will help them.

In the meantime, the researchers note that finding the true distribution and density of dust particles in the solar system will help engineers design spacecraft materials that can better withstand dust impacts. Knowing the precise distribution of dust may also guide the design of flight paths for future spacecraft in order to avoid the highest concentration of particles. Tiny particles traveling at such high velocities can gouge up to 1,000 times their mass from a spacecraft.

Juno’s solar arrays escaped harm because the solar cells are well protected against impact on the back — or dark — side of the array by the support structure.

Banner image: An illustration shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it entered orbit of Jupiter on July 4, 2016, after traveling for nearly five years and more than 1.7 billion miles. Credits: NASA/JPL/SwRI. Download image here.

By Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

4.9 19 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
March 10, 2021 2:22 am

“But Jørgensen hoped his cameras might also catch sight of an undiscovered asteroid. So he programmed one camera to report things that appeared in multiple consecutive images but weren’t in the catalog of known celestial objects. He didn’t expect to see much: Nearly all objects in the sky are accounted for in the star catalog. So when the camera started beaming down thousands of images of unidentifiable objects — streaks appearing then mysteriously disappearing — Jørgensen and his colleagues were baffled. “We were looking at the images and saying, ‘What could this be?’” he said.”

I wonder what I will find if I test my preconceptions.
This is how real science is done.

Last edited 1 year ago by Philip Mulholland
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 10, 2021 2:50 am

The ballet of the slingshot orbit is superb.

John Tillman
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 10, 2021 3:39 am

Displaying yet again the reality of gravity, denied by batty “electric universe” bots.

James F. Evans
Reply to  John Tillman
March 10, 2021 12:55 pm

Talk about a straw man argument. It’s false that plasma physics (“electric universe”) claims there is no gravity.

What the observations & measurements of plasma physics does suggest is that electromagnetism plays an important part in celestial interactions.

The dust described in this article is suggested to be from Mars.

How did the dust escape Mar’s gravity?

Perhaps, it took a ride up and out of Mar’s gravity by those vortexes observed rising above the surface of the planet.

What generates those vortexes?


(For the atmosphere is far too thin for any other explanation.)

So, it seems in this instance electromagnetism is stronger than gravity.

Reply to  James F. Evans
March 10, 2021 2:26 pm

What electro magnetism?

James F. Evans
Reply to  MarkW
March 10, 2021 3:39 pm

The electromagnetism present in an ionized state of matter, plasma, which constitutes the forth state of matter, with the other three being solids, liquids, and gases.

And, of course, electromagnetism, as in the forth elemental force, along with gravity, and the weak and strong nuclear forces.

The vortexes and dust storms observed on Mars are a result of electromagnetic forces present on the surface and extending out from the planet.

John Tillman
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 10, 2021 5:26 pm

No, they aren’t.

Even the global storms start out as dust devils, caused by rising warm air, as on Earth. To be sure, some of the dust particles pick up electric charge, making them clingier. But lightning on Earth is understood as distincct from the meteorological origin of storms.

James F. Evans
Reply to  John Tillman
March 10, 2021 6:58 pm

An important piece of evidence is that the atmospheric density of Mars is 1% that of Earth. Your nasa link claims it’s all due to heat, but fails to explain the timing & duration of the storms in terms of their hypothesis.

The better explanation is the build up of capacitor force (voltage) between the ground and the upper atmosphere, Eventually, the resistance between the two breaks down, electromagnetic current flows and dust is carried with it, a well known and accepted occurrence in partially ionized plasma.

John Tillman
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 10, 2021 2:54 pm

“Electric universe” crackpots most certainly do say there’s no gravity. No straw man, just the facts.

The loons’ lame explanation for impact craters is giant electric discharges.

You’re in bed with some milspec grade whackjobs.

Of course the electromagnetic force is stronger than gravity, but it doesn’t explain the escape of dust from Mars. The strong and weak nuclear forces are more powerful, too. But the gravity well of a massive body like a planet is still potent.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Tillman
James F. Evans
Reply to  John Tillman
March 10, 2021 4:05 pm

Mr. Tillman, ad hominems aside, they do not say “there’s no gravity.”

And, yes, it does explain the escape of dust from Mars. We know from observations & measurements on Earth that dust devils, a type of vortex, have an elevated voltage higher than the surrounding atmosphere. We also know that flowing electric currents, an expression of electromagnetism, tends to create vortexes.

I suggest the vortexes on Mars have similar physical properties.

Whatever the force is, it would seem to overcome the force of gravity on those particles of dust.

What would you propose as the physical process by which the dust of Mars raises all the way out into interstellar space?

John Tillman
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 10, 2021 5:31 pm

Somehow you bought into the EU claptrap without reading what its proponents actually say. They are gravity deniers, as shown by my link.

It’s not an ad hominem to label a crackpot as such if he’s certifiably so.

I’m pretty sure I’m more familiar with dust devils than you, having grown up and lived most of my life on a semi-arid wheat plateau where they’re a common feature. They’re caused by a pocket of hot air near the surface rising in a column, a rotating updraft, like a mini-tornado.

They’re not caused by static electricity.

James F. Evans
Reply to  John Tillman
March 10, 2021 7:16 pm

Mr. Tillman, your link doesn’t state that, why don’t you provide a quote, or quotes, to back up your claim.

It is ad hominem to call names without showing evidence, and even with evidence it’s inappropriate to call names, it shows you have a weak argument.

I appreciate your personal experience of seeing dust devils (so have I), but it offers little evidence you know what you’re talking about.

Please explain the increased voltage (electric field) observed & measured in dust devils.

No, not static electricity, but the ambient electric field that exists in Earth’s atmosphere, which is about 100 volts per square meter.

John Tillman
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 10, 2021 5:38 pm

Wrong again. Rover Curiosity actually observed dust devil formation on Mars, and it happens there, regardless of thin air, the same way as on Earth.

Whirlwind video:

They form when the ground is heated in summer. No EM radiation need apply.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Tillman
James F. Evans
Reply to  John Tillman
March 10, 2021 7:21 pm

Mr Tillman, you are engaging in circular reasoning, and presumptive conclusions.

What is the evidence it only happens in a Martian Summer?

I find that unpersuasive.

John Tillman
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 11, 2021 7:06 am

The evidence is NASA observations.

As on Earth, dust devils only form when the ground is hot.

No circular reasoning. Just the facts.

James F. Evans
Reply to  John Tillman
March 11, 2021 8:35 am

Yes, NASA has made observations. I appreciate that.

It’s the interpretations and conclusions that are questionable at best and totally unsupported at worst.

By the way, Mr. Tillman, you never came to grips with the observed & measured increased voltage in dust devils, or explain how simple wind and mild temperature would cast Mars’ dust all the way into space beyond Mars’ gravity which is only slightly less than Earth’s.

Last time I looked nobody is claiming dust escapes Earth’s gravity and goes into space by heating or any other physical process.

James F. Evans
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 11, 2021 8:42 am

Oh, Mr. Tillman, you failed to provide any quotes regarding your claims of “gravity deniers.”

Your failure is evidence of intellectual dishonesty.

John Tillman
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 11, 2021 2:16 pm

I linked to you the most cited EU group spewing this nonsense, which says that craters are caused by electricity, not gravity. What more do you want?

Last edited 1 year ago by John Tillman
James F. Evans
Reply to  John Tillman
March 12, 2021 6:38 am

No, Mr. Tillman, It’s obvious, you don’t have any quotes or you would have provided those quotes.

You consistently engage in logical fallacies.

Their claiming the origin of craters is from lighting bolts (a plasma phenomenon) does not mean they don’t believe in gravity.

Mr. Tillman, I’ve noticed a theme of your comments, if you don’t agree with a hypothesis, you set out a straw man argument.

That’s not science, it’s rhetoric, and dishonest at that.

John Tillman
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 11, 2021 2:19 pm

As should be obvious, Earth’s atmosphere is much denser, gravity much greater and dust particles more massive.

That static electricity can be built up in dust devils, tornados, clouds, etc is no mystery. But EM doesn’t cause these phenomena.

You’ve got nothing. On Earth and Mars, observations show and physics predicts that heating the surface causes updrafts, which can rotate. Again, no mystery. Elemental. Had you ever lived among dust devils, you’d know this from direct experiment.

James F. Evans
Reply to  John Tillman
March 12, 2021 6:56 am

Mr. Tillman, yes, the atmosphere is denser on Earth, but the gravity is not “much greater.” Compare the size of Mars and Earth and Mars is slightly smaller… that is the difference in gravity. Updrafts caused by heating doesn’t explain the vortex because simple heating causes expansion,and diffusion, not concentration, which is part of the vortex process.

I have seen many dust devils, as have most people, your experience is not unique. It doesn’t signify any understanding of the physical processes involved.

As this article stated, the winds on Mars in the dust storms is around 65 mph, that isn’t even close to escape velocity, even on Mars.

You should know that

You might be better off if you weren’t so prejudiced against ideas you don’t understand.

James F. Evans
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 12, 2021 7:50 am

Mr. Tillman stated,”dust particles more massive” on Earth.

Oh, those magical, super small dust particles on Mars.

Please, where is your evidence for that? It certainly wasn’t in this article.

Now, you are making things up, in an attempt to “win” the argument.

Again that isn’t science.

Science is a method and thought process: being reasonably skeptical, but having an open mind, and being willing to follow where the evidence leads.

You forget that. Rhetorical & logical fallacies have no place in scientific argument Neither does intellectual dishonesty.

Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 10, 2021 4:13 am

Yes! Love me some hot gravity-assist action! I play KSP just to watch it.
I always feel like I’m getting something for nothing. Well, something for time and planning, not nothing. I hate burning fuel when I’m far from home. Best to do it just outside the atmosphere, deep in the gravity well of something big. Thanks, Mr Oberth!

Bill Powers
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 10, 2021 9:34 am

IN other words Phillip, In Science, ‘…Mars may be the culprit.” a hypothetical. Following the scientific method: now let the science aka “debate” begin, despite the popular belief aka “Consensus.”

As opposed to, In 21st Century Politics, Claiming a consensus, Mars is the culprit. Therefore accepting the majority opinion (disinformation by the media) is Belief in Science and Debate is Denial.

March 10, 2021 4:20 am

And so once again we see that many if not most discoveries are not a Eureka moment where a finding hypothesized is found but instead the result of an unexpected accidental discovery with the exclamation of: What the heck is that?

Joel O’Bryan
March 10, 2021 4:34 am

So dusty Mars is like Charlie Brown’s Pigpen.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
March 10, 2021 6:48 am

So is Mars slowly immigrating to Earth ?

Alastair Brickell
March 10, 2021 5:02 am

Fascinating stuff…it’s great that we don’t know everything…except for climate scientists who know in minute detail exactly what we are doing to the Earth’s climate!

I can’t quite get into my head just why we see it as a pryamid or triangle which is widest nearest the Sun. I understand that it will follow the ecliptic, as does Mars obviously. However, is the triangle widest towards the direction of the Sun because that where there’s most light and most scattering?

Also amazing is the fact that each particle knocks 1000x its mass off the spacecraft. So a 1g particle would knock off a 1kg piece? Yes, I understand that most are much smaller than 1g but it’s still an interesting thought. Could be a problem for solar sails passing through this material…

Peta of Newark
March 10, 2021 5:16 am

Is it beyond beleif that that dust and plenty other stuff in Interstellar Space is acting as Plant Food when it lands on Earth
Plenty does. Radio hams at least bounce their transmissions/broadcast off the ionisation trails it creates
Because Earth’s dirt is now so ancient and highly eroded, even small amounts (100 ton per day by accounts) can have very dramatic effects on the plants.
And plants, contrary to EVERYTHING known in Modern Science, control the weather.
(Via their control and use of water)

Its well known how the dust gets off Mars.
Its similar to a Newton’s Cradle effect.

A thing I saw ‘somewhere’ demonstrated it and they must be on youtube somewhere.
(They were in Australia – lots of dust there innit)

As I recall its a nice party trick we can all do.
Get 4 or 5 fairly hard balls of varying size.
Largest maybe tennis ball size down to a small ping-pong ball
Put a hole through the centre of them all
Get a wooden/metal plate and stick a dowel rod straight up from the centre of it
Put the balls in descending size order on the dowel. Smallest at top.

Hold the assembled ‘thing’ at waist-height maybe and let it drop flat down onto a hard floor

The top/smallest ball will go right over the top of your house. No kidding
The larger balls all give their gravitational potential energy to the baby – watch it go!

That is how Sahara Sand reaches the UK and in fact gets across the Atlantic where, no surprise to some, causes Amazonian Greening

Search for ‘bouncing’ + ‘sand’ + ‘grains’ in some combination.
It’ll be a video of that party trick.
Its quite epic actually

There is, can’t recall its name right now, a huge dust cloud of varying density that this little corner of the Galaxy is moving through right now

Found it

“”The Sun’s shifting magnetic field is set to focus a decade-long storm of galactic dust grains towards the inner Solar System, including Earth.“”

Not in any way like ‘decades long climate cycles‘ by any chance

Last edited 1 year ago by Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 10, 2021 9:02 am

Won’t give up on your “nutritional dirt can stop climate change”schtick, I see. Dust from the Sahara doesn’t just end up in the Amazon, it goes north of there too; much to Europe, the Caribbean, and the Southeastern United States, even more than to the Amazon. How do we know? 1) You can often see the dust in satellite images moving away from the Sahara in directions heading to far north of the Amazon. 2) There are several networks of very sensitive radiation detectors. When it rains they can detect the radiation of radon washout from radioactive particles attached to Sahara dust, the rise in the radiation background is strongly correlated to dust carried from the Sahara. This is often seen in Europe and North America. I know, I was in charge of one network that covered South America, the Caribbean, and Europe. So much for your wacky statement that dust from the Sahara causes the Amazon to green – Sahara dust goes many other places too. The Amazon is green because it rains there – a lot. I suppose you think that the water in the great Amazon River comes from nutritional dirt too?

Give it up. Climate alarmists point to stuff like this and say “look at those climate realists, see the absolutely crazy stuff they believe?”

Last edited 1 year ago by meab
Robert W Turner
Reply to  Meab
March 10, 2021 10:10 am


Dust sometimes gets caught in cyclones and carried to NA or EU, but most of the time it is carried straight over to SA.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
March 10, 2021 11:33 am

Nice image of ONE *MODEL* run.

Here’s some actual satellite images:

Dust going to Italy:

comment image

Dust going to the Caribbean:

comment image

Dust going to Florida:

comment image

Dust going to Texas:

comment image

Dust going to Portugal:

comment image?resize=400%2C267&mrf-size=m

Here’s an image of Saharan dust blanketing the snow in Central Europe:

comment image

The fact is that dust from the Sahara goes many places (including South America but certainly NOT straight to SA). All the places where the dust goes aren’t lush and tropical like the Amazon.

By the way, are you Peta?

Reply to  Robert W Turner
March 10, 2021 12:30 pm

There was a report a few years ago about Sahara dust being possibly responsible for the extensive Greenland and Arctic ice melt of 2012. According to imagery discovered in satellite data from 2012, a major portion of the Sahara dust that year was carried north and over Greenland by unusual wind flows.

Reply to  Meab
March 11, 2021 12:33 pm

A heck of a lot of dust from Africa ends up on the various Caribbean islands.

dodgy geezer
March 10, 2021 5:23 am

What do the various international Health and Safety bodies have to say about working in dusty conditions?

And shouldn’t someone be fining Mars for pollution?

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  dodgy geezer
March 10, 2021 5:37 am

The ultrafine dust on Mars will be a huge problem for any human stuck on its surface. The dust particles all carrying a fine coating of perchlorate to add to the misery they will create for the unfortunate souls who get duped to visit there… if any actually do.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
March 11, 2021 12:35 pm

They almost certainly will sooner or later, .

Lee Scott
March 10, 2021 5:46 am

Don’t we regularly find meteorites from Mars on the ice in Antarctica? I would suppose that the dust got there the same way – impacts from asteroids blasting stuff into space. Mar’s two moons may be too small to collect all the dust that is ejected.

John Tillman
Reply to  Lee Scott
March 10, 2021 6:03 am

Given Mars’ thin air and low gravity, tiny dust grains can reach escape velocity during global wind storms. Much of the planet’s water was apparently lost by lofted dust:

Impacts might help.

Reply to  Lee Scott
March 11, 2021 12:37 pm

Yes occasional fragments from Mars are found. And it is believed they are the ejecta of heavy impacts by asteroids on the planet,

March 10, 2021 6:14 am

I don’t think Mars is the source. Mars dust must have a lot of iron oxide (hence the pinkish sky) and this would have been noticed long ago. Interplanetary dust has been collected and is mainly silicates. Don Brownlee should have been asked to comment.

More likely that Mars and the dust are both channeled into the same orbit by Jupiter.

Reply to  ScarletMacaw
March 10, 2021 6:31 am

Indeed solar wind would blow it away towards the outer solar system’s planets.

Reply to  Vuk
March 10, 2021 7:35 am

The article note that orbital resonances create barriers between dust transport between the inner and outer solar system.

Reply to  Kevin
March 10, 2021 7:58 am

Hi Kev
No idea if they do, but lot of people around here use to think that the orbital resonance via those pesky sunspots is responsible for our global warming or cooling or whatever.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Kevin
March 10, 2021 10:47 am

Maybe the folks here need visual proof that orbital resonances can craft organized dust rings.

orbital resonances between the moons and the gas planet craft the beautiful ice and dust rings of Saturn and Uranus.

Jupiter and Neptune also have simpler ring structures not seen until robotic spacecraft got close them in recent decades.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joel O’Bryan
Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  ScarletMacaw
March 10, 2021 7:10 am

Yes Mars is the red planet due to the surface color but Mars sky color is due to the particle size not the iron oxide itself.

Reply to  ScarletMacaw
March 10, 2021 7:50 am

Having a lot of iron oxide, and being mainly silicate are not mutually exclusive statements.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  ScarletMacaw
March 10, 2021 10:04 am

I agree. I see no reason why this simply couldn’t be dust that was never accreted by Mars and is stuck in orbital resonance between Jupiter and Sun.

March 10, 2021 6:27 am

I was always a bit concerned that my ancestors might arrived from Mars as a dust particle . Now we know, Mars being smaller than the Earth cooled earlier providing conditions for microbial life and here we are.
Where the Mars got its little green micromen then? May be Galactic dust, but unlikely.
The other day while Miss Markle was complaining about her royal in-laws to someone called Opra, a part of asteroid aiming for her father’s in law property, missed it by just few miles somewhere in Gloucestershire. It nearly hit wrong house, but it was quickly recovered.
Analysis show it is Carbonaceous chondrites especially pristine and primitive meteorite that generally contain lots of organic material, including complex molecules such as amino acids. Studying carbonaceous chondrites can shed light on the early solar system and how the building blocks of life found their way to Earth, researchers say.
There are apparently only 50 in whole world, never one found in the UK before. The Japanese spend hundreds of millions just to get few grams from an asteroid, while we got 10.6 ounces (300 grams) totally free of charge.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Vuk
March 10, 2021 7:18 am

There is no reason to believe Earth’s life began and evolved anywhere but Earth. One can fantasize all sorts of possibilities with zero evidence to support those musings.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
March 10, 2021 7:33 am

That would be rather sad. Life: ‘have DNA will travel’.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Vuk
March 10, 2021 11:03 am

DNA is rather fragile when bombarded with a steady flux of high speed particles over countless millennia of a space travel.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 10, 2021 1:59 pm

Only on the surface, no problem when buried deep inside a rock formed in the mud flats. When meteorite is large enough like Chelyabinsk considering it spends only few minutes in the atmosphere, its surface will get charred (perhaps creating a bit of thermal insulation as well) but deep inside may not get hot enough to destroy possible organic material. After few KYrs or MYrs weathering would dissolve e.g. calcium-carbonate rock releasing its ingredients into the virgin planet’s environment.
‘Have DNA have a protective shield will travel interplanetary’.

Last edited 1 year ago by vuk
Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Vuk
March 10, 2021 3:07 pm

Your imagination runs too wild Vuk.
I could imagine there are hundreds of advanced alien species and many thousands of biologically diverse planets across the galaxy. But it would be belief resting on nothing because not one shred of evidence any actually exist.

Even the simplest of bacteria have epigenetic levels complexity far beyond our current understand. And we really have no idea what the step wise progression actually was for even that to arise from a sterile soup of warm mudpot hit by lightning in a methane-CO2 atmosphere of ancient Earth.

John Tillman
Reply to  Vuk
March 10, 2021 3:30 pm

Meteorites do indeed contain a vast panoply of complex organic chemical compounds, not just amino acids, but sugars, nucleobases, phosphates, nucleic and fatty acids. IOW, the building blocks of biomolecules. Clouds of PAHs drift in deep space.

But even with all these constituents of life, odds are that for replicating RNA and polypeptides to form, and proto-metabolism to start, a more complex environment is needed than inside space rocks. Oligomers of RNA and peptides do form in the water pockets in ice, but they don’t polymerize. The needed prebiotic enzymes and ambient conditions for polymerization, replication and separation of the strands probably requires environments as on the early Earth. IMO.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Tillman
Kevin kilty
March 10, 2021 6:44 am

Juno scientists determined that the dust cloud ends at Earth because Earth’s gravity sucks up all the dust that gets near it. 

I wonder, did Juno during its journey venture inside the Earth’s orbit? Do they really know that this distribution of dust ends at the Earth’s orbit? How efficient is Earth at sweeping up everything in its neighborhood? It seems to me that the Poynting-Robertson effect, which may explain how dust escaped Mars’s influence, produces a conveyor of dust which continues inward to the Sun.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kevin Kilty
Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Kevin kilty
March 10, 2021 11:00 am

Yes. see the provided visualization.

Andrew Lale
March 10, 2021 7:43 am

‘…Jørgensen and his colleagues cannot yet explain how the dust could have escaped the grip of Martian gravity.’ Martians?

Reply to  Andrew Lale
March 10, 2021 8:50 am

Number of points that might explain the puzzle:
Gravity on Mars is 0.4 G, day night cycle 24h, sharp temperature night-day transition from -70C to +20C. These factors put together might enable microscopic particles to climb up the large temperature gradient atmospheric vortex to the heights where the solar storm wind pressure is greater than force of gravity. After all that is the way Mars lost most of its original atmosphere.

March 10, 2021 7:52 am

I have seen that phenomenon many times but I’m ashamed to say I was never very curious about it. I just thought it was the sun’s light diffusing into the high atmosphere. I had no idea it had a name.

Steve Z
March 10, 2021 7:58 am

If Juno’s solar panels have been damaged by impacts from thousands of dust particles on its way to Jupiter, will those solar panels still deliver enough power to carry out the experiments near Jupiter, where sunlight is much less intense than on Earth?

Reply to  Steve Z
March 10, 2021 12:19 pm

The panels were sized so they would provide sufficient energy (405 watts) under the sunlight conditions near Jupiter, with presumably some margin to allow for possible damage. And damaged they were, but probably only slightly. It’s been in orbit around Jupiter for more than four years, so I guess the engineers did well.

Alastair Brickell
Reply to  mcswelll
March 10, 2021 1:18 pm

I get the impression that the damage was mostly to the back of the panels where it apparently doesn’t matter so much. I assume the panels were pointing towards the Sun mostly during the passage through the dust belt so the back would generally have been facing into the dust ‘wind’. That’s my take on the story anyway.

March 10, 2021 8:02 am

This paper apparently explains what I have been calling “cosmic dust” that I’ve been detecting using twilight photometry. I began this project in 2013 at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory to measure the elevation of smoke, dust and smog in the troposphere. These measurements were easily done, and when I began charting the data for higher elevations, I began seeing spikes and bulges from meteor smoke up to 140 km. Higher still were often other layers that seemed much too high for meteor ablation. (A typical profile from a few days ago is attached.) I assumed they were layers of cosmic dust, and this paper seems to affirm that. I’m now working on an article about my twilight photometry for Sky & Telescope and will post a notice here if and when it’s published. For more about twilight photometry and how to make a simple instrument, see my article in MAKE magazine: Build a Twilight Photometer to Detect Stratospheric Particles | Make: (

Cosmic Dust 2 Mar 2021.jpg
Reply to  Forrest M. Mims III
March 10, 2021 11:48 am

Wow! I hope people go over your coming article with a fine-toothed comb. All sorts of interesting things will wind up eventually being revealed.

Reply to  Forrest M. Mims III
March 13, 2021 6:05 am

Thanks for this. It’s interesting that, from the video, the Earth’s orbit is right on the inner edge of the dust “disk” (and no more dust inward from there). Is Earth shepherding/collecting some of the dust? Also interesting that some of the dust disk goes sunward from Mars since the solar wind should be pushing it outward from Mars.

Last edited 1 year ago by beng135
Chris Novatny
March 10, 2021 8:54 am

That pesky little v² guy again!

Leonard Weinstein
March 10, 2021 11:11 am

It most likely is dust from the moons of Mars. They are coated with a thick layer of fine dust, and escape velocity, especially from Deimos is very low. Also Deimos is far enough away from Mars, that escape from Mars orbit is not too difficult. Occasional impacts should be more than enough to kick stuff away.

Reply to  Leonard Weinstein
March 11, 2021 6:01 am

So, possibly the small moons of Mars pick up the top few particles of dust from Martian dust storms. Then, these small moons are gravitationally unable to hold onto some of that dust. So, maybe, the small moons serve as one conduit for the dust to leave Mars and eventually get dispersed beyond Mars’ gravitational influence. This speculation needs to be criticized.

March 10, 2021 1:08 pm

Does NASA have a A team and a B team? 🙂

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Waza
March 10, 2021 3:10 pm

Yep. The physics and math-challenged B-teamers end up in GISS.

James F. Evans
March 11, 2021 9:07 am

A possibility: Mars has a “patchy” magnetic field, quite different than Earth’s. Not only is Mars’ magnetic field “patchy”, but it is weaker, too.

Thus, the surface of Mars is less protected from the solar wind, charged particles, striking the dust on the surface. This may be what initiates an electromagnetic physical process that ejects the dust into space.

March 11, 2021 3:01 pm

This also argues against the Clube / Napier / Hoyle argument that Zodiacal Light is sourced by ice from the fragmented YD progenitor. And I point this out a guy who thinks there is some merit to the YD comet storm theory.

The more you know, the more you find you don’t know, which is coolness. Cheers –

Bro. Steve
March 12, 2021 5:14 am

I was looking for my car keys and found them on the kitchen table. This SHATTERED MY PREVIOUS BELIEF that the keys were in the den.

And when I found my phone beside them, it DEVASTATED THE EXISTING PARADIGM that the phone was in the den too.

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights