Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Oldest meteorite ever found helps show how the solar system began

An artist’s rendition of NWA 11119, the oldest-ever igneous meteorite. Image credit University of New Mexico An artist’s rendition of NWA 11119, the oldest-ever igneous meteorite. Image credit University of New Mexico
Kristen Harrington | 09 August, 2018, 05:25

A new study, led by the University of Manchester, confirms that organic matter found in 4.5 billion-year-old chondritic asteroids probably formed from basic chemical reactions during the infant stage of our Solar System. As this cloud collapsed, it formed a spinning disk with the sun in the center.

It could also help astronomers investigate the potential habitability of other solar systems. Covered in crystals and nearly as big as a basketball, the meteorite is the oldest igneous meteorite ever discovered according to a recently published study.

It wasn't immediately clear that the rock was extraterrestrial because of its light color, the researchers told Live Science.

11119 is the oldest igneous meteorite recorded.

The asteroid, borrowed from the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, is an extremely rare rock known as a carbonaceous chondrite and weighed around 30 pounds (14kg) when it landed. "Some of them look nearly like the crust of the Earth because they're so light colored and full of [silica]", Agee said. "These not only exist, but it occurred during one of the very first volcanic events to take place in the Solar System".

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The researchers used an electron microprobe and a CT scan to identify the chemical composition and mineralogy of the meteorite.

Only a few per cent of all meteorites are Chondrites - rocks that have not been changed due to melting during their journey in space - making them hard to come by, and even harder to study.

"The mineralogy of this rock is a very, very different from anything that we've worked on before", said Srinivasan.

The study provides the first "high-precision triple oxygen isotope analysis" of carbonaceous chondrite organics. Meet "Northwest Africa 11119", the meteorite that's helping scientists learn about the early days of our solar system. The only comparable rocks on Earth with similar levels of tridymite are found in some volcanic rocks.

Although researchers have found space rocks that date back further before, NWA 11119 is unique because it's the oldest igneous meteorite ever discovered. "The meteorite we studied is unlike any other known meteorite", he said. When found on Earth and analysed in detail, they act as time capsules for understanding how planets formed and evolved over billions of years.

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Most meteorites are formed through the collision of asteroids orbiting the sun in a region called the asteroid belt.

Carbonaceous chondrites are meteorites that originated from chondritic asteroids that are as old as our Solar System.

Decrepit igneous meteorite entails indication to planet building blocks.

Achondrite meteorites record the first episodes of volcanism and crust formation, the majority of which are basaltic.

"The meteorite studied is unlike any other known meteorite", says co-author and ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration graduate student Daniel Dunlap. From it, planets and other objects emerged, forming our solar system. They thought it belonged to the Earth.

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