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E. Scientists Strive to Understand the Origins of Life in the Solar System

Narrator: This is Science Today. Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are using electron microscopes and ion microprobes capable of studying, at close to atomic scale resolution, the composition and structures of very small grains of cosmic dust. John Bradley, director of the Lab's Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics, says interplanetary dust particles are pervasive throughout the galaxy.

Bradley: We were looking at a particular class of interplanetary dust particles that we believe to come from comets and since comets spend most of their lifetimes at extreme heliocentric distances from the sun, any material that's risen in a comet is essentially been frozen solid for the age of the solar system. So comet samples are in effect, a time capsule from the very beginning of the solar system. So what we're interested in finding out is what are the kinds of materials that were here at the very birth of the solar system and in particular, we're interested in organic materials and whether these could be relevant to the origins of life in the inner solar system.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.