Cosmic Ice Lab Studies Reactions Occurring in Deep Space
Released on March 4, 2013
At the NASA Goddard Cosmic Ice Lab, scientists are studying ice to help us understand the unusual chemical reactions that occur in space. Ice in space is amorphous, lacking the crystalline structure of the ice found on Earth. In space, this ice is often dirty, containing different kinds of particles and organic molecules. Recent discoveries have found that compounds trapped in amorphous ice are involved in a kind of chemistry unlike anything known on Earth. At the Goddard Cosmic Ice Lab, scientists are recreating the conditions of space to study the properties of amorphous ice firsthand. Their research will help astronomers to interpret observations of the far reaches of space, and further our understanding of the potential for the existence life beyond Earth.
NASA scientists at the Goddard Cosmic Ice Lab are studying a kind of chemistry almost never found on Earth. The extreme cold, hard vacuum, and high radiation environment of space allows the formation of an unstructured form of solid water called amorphous ice. Often particles and organic compounds are trapped in this ice that could provide clues to life in the universe.