Ultra-primitive interplanetary dust particles from the comet 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup dust stream collection

Henner Busemann, Ann N. Nguyen, George D. Cody, Peter Hoppe, A. L.David Kilcoyne, Rhonda M. Stroud, Thomas J. Zega, Larry R. Nittler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


Cometary material and pristine interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) best resemble the unaltered components from which our solar system was built because they have remained largely unaltered in a cold undisturbed environment since accretion in the outer protoplanetary disk. IDPs might supply more primitive assemblages for laboratory analysis than Stardust samples from comet 81P/Wild 2 but their individual provenances are typically unknown. We speculate that some IDPs collected by NASA in April 2003 may be associated with comet 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup because their particularly pristine character coincides with the collection period that was predicted to show an enhanced flux of particles from this Jupiter-family comet. Some IDPs from this collection contain the most primitive assembly of interstellar matter found to date including an unusually high abundance of presolar grains and very isotopically anomalous and disordered organic matter as well as fine-grained carbonates and an amphibole associated with a GEMS-like object (glass with embedded metals and sulfides) that potentially imply formation in a nebular rather than planetary environment. The two most primitive IDPs may contain assemblages of molecular cloud material at the percent level which is supported by the presence of four rare 17O-depleted presolar silicate grains possibly of supernova(e) origin within one ~ 70 μm2-sized IDP and the close association of a Group 1 Mg-rich olivine from a low-mass red giant star with a carbonaceous nano-globule of potentially interstellar origin. Our study together with observations of comet 9P/Tempel 1 during the Deep Impact experiment and 81P/Wild 2 dust analyses reveal some compositional variations and many similarities among three Jupiter-family comets. Specifically carbonates and primitive organic matter or amorphous carbon were widespread in the comet-forming regions of the outer protoplanetary disk and not all comets contain as much inner solar system material as has been inferred for comet 81P/Wild 2. The bulk and hotspot hydrogen and nitrogen isotopic anomalies as well as the carbon Raman characteristics of the organic matter in IDPs and the most primitive meteorites are remarkably similar. This implies that the same mixture of molecular cloud material had been transported inward into the meteorite-forming regions of the solar system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-57
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 30 2009


  • comet Grigg-Skjellerup
  • interplanetary dust particles
  • interstellar medium
  • organic matter
  • presolar grains
  • solar system formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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