attack of the dust bunnies from space

There’s a major influx of stardust in our solar system and it’s coming in at a rate three times faster than it did six years ago — and could triple again by 2013, according to measurements taken by the spacecraft, Ulysses. The sun normally puts a charge on stardust and then its magnetic field deflects it out of the solar system. But, as Markus Landgraf of the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany, and his colleagues report in the October Journal of Geophysical Research, the sun’s magnetic field is currently flipping its polarity, and with its field in disarray, it can’t eject the particles as it usually does. While the sun finishes the reversal that it began in 2001, the stardust will continue to stream in unchecked. But don’t go running for your Space Hoover just yet; Stardust, as far as we know, is not dangerous to life on Earth.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 9/16/2003.
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