Dust grains floating through our solar system have been found to contain tiny pockets of water that form when they are hit by charged particles from the sun, a phenomenon created in laboratories but previously unconfirmed inside actual stardust, they said.
Organic compounds have previously been detected in stardust, and the discovery of water in them suggests they contain the basic ingredients needed for life.
Such dust is probably common in solar systems all over the universe, the researchers said, suggesting life might be widespread throughout the cosmos.
"The implications are potentially huge," Hope Ishii of the University of Hawaii, one of researchers behind the study, told NewScientist.com. "It is a particularly thrilling possibility that this influx of dust on the surfaces of solar system bodies has acted as a continuous rainfall of little reaction vessels containing both the water and organics needed for the eventual origin of life."
The water-producing reaction involving dust particles and solar energy is likely to occur in any corner of the universe with a star or even a supernova, Ishii said.