A small piece of rock found in a field in Gloucestershire in the UK may not look like an accidental passerby, but it may contain vital information about the formation of the solar system – and the origins of life itself.
This is because it did not form here on Earth, but rather descended from somewhere outside of orbit. Mars. Launched by gravitational interactions or a collision between asteroids, the fragment flipped over a vast expanse of space and ended up piercing our atmosphere to land on Earth as meteorites.
However, what is known as the Winchcombe meteorite may not be an ordinary meteorite. Scientists are currently conducting analyzes to determine its composition, hoping to learn more about its source and how it was formed.
“The internal structure is brittle and loose, porous with cracks and crevices,” Microscope Sean Fowler a dit from Loughborough University in the UK.
“It doesn’t appear to have undergone a thermal metamorphosis, which means it was there, after Mars, intact, since before one of the planets was created, which means we have a rare opportunity to examine a piece. of our primordial past. ”
small part, part of the same meteor who who Fallen in Winckcombe As of March, it is about 4.6 billion years old, roughly the same age as the solar system. This means that they formed from the same cloud of dust and gas that gave birth to the Sun and the planets.
While the planets of the solar system have since undergone significant events and transformations, the Gloucestershire meteorite has elongated somewhat undisturbed in the asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. Its loose fit meant it wasn’t stressed out by frequent accidents.
This, until he lands on England. Its arrival caused a stir – not only was it the first meteorite to be recovered from the continent in 30 years, but it turned out to be a rare species, known as carbonaceous chondrites.
This means that it is a rocky meteorite which, rather than iron, is mainly composed of carbon and silicon. These materials are less likely to withstand the rigors of atmospheric entry than ferrous rocks; This is why carbonaceous chondrites are rare.
The black piece of space rock will undergo a series of analyzes, including electron microscopy, seismic spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction. These techniques will help reveal the physical structure of the rock, as well as what it is made of. We already know little, but scientists are looking for hidden details.
“Most of the meteorite is composed of minerals such as olivine and phyllosilicates, with other mineral inclusions called chondres”, Fowler a dit.
“But the makeup is unlike anything you might find here on Earth and probably not any other meteorite we’ve found – it probably has a previously unknown chemical or physical makeup that has never been seen before in d ‘other meteorite samples recorded. ”
Less than five percent of all meteorites recovered on Earth are carbonaceous chondrites, but they are in high demand: they are rich in organic matter, and scientists believe they may contain clues to the origins of organic matter here on Earth.
other like Pieces of space rocks It has provided tantalizing clues to the origins of the building blocks of life, as well as water, but with so little to study, researchers want more.
“Carbon chondrites contain organic compounds, including amino acids, which are found in all living things”, Astrochemist Derek Robson said: From the Eastern Astrophysical Research Organization (EAARO), which found the meteorite.
“Being able to identify and confirm the presence of such compounds from a substance that existed before Earth was born would be an important step in understanding how life began.”
The team’s analysis is in progress.