The oldest meteorite ever found: a 4.65 million year old space rock could reveal secrets of our solar system

Known as & # 39; Northwest Africa (NWA) 11119, & # 39; It was found on a sand dune in Mauritania. Now, researchers have dated record space rock as 4.565 billion years.

The oldest meteorite of all time is helping scientists decipher the mystery of how our solar system was formed.

Known as & # 39; Northwest Africa (NWA) 11119, & # 39; The meteorite the size of a baseball was found on a sand dune in Mauritania.

Now, researchers have dated record space rock as 4.565 billion years.

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Known as & # 39; Northwest Africa (NWA) 11119, & # 39; It was found on a sand dune in Mauritania. Now, researchers have dated record space rock as 4.565 billion years.

Known as & # 39; Northwest Africa (NWA) 11119, & # 39; It was found on a sand dune in Mauritania. Now, researchers have dated record space rock as 4.565 billion years.

Scientists believe that the solar system was formed about 4.6 billion years ago when a cloud of gas and dust collapsed under gravity, possibly triggered by a cataclysmic explosion of a nearby massive star or supernova.

When this cloud collapsed, it formed a spinning disk with the sun in the center.

They expect the meteorite to shed new light on this process.

"The meteorite we studied is different from any other known meteorite," said co-author Daniel Dunlap at the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University.

It has the highest abundance of silica and the oldest age (4.565 million years) of any known igneous meteorite.

"Meteorites like this were the precursors of planetary formation and represent a critical step in the evolution of rock bodies in our solar system."

Research on this meteorite, published today in Nature Communications, provides the first direct evidence that chemically evolved and silica-rich crust rocks were formed in planetesimals in the first 10 million years of the solar system, before the assembly of the planets terrestrial

The research began at the University of New Mexico (UNM) with a still-to-study meteorite, called "Northwest Africa (NWA) 11119", which was found on a sand dune in Mauritania.

WHERE HE CAME FROM?

"The purpose of this research was to understand the origin and timing of the formation of an unusually rich silica igneous meteorite," said Wadhwa, who is the director of ASU's Center for Meteorological Studies.

In addition, the investigation consisted of trying to discover through chemical and isotopic analysis of what body the meteorite could be.

The researchers say it is from a "large geologically complex body that formed in the early solar system"

The researchers say it is from a "large geologically complex body that formed in the early solar system"

The researchers say it is from a "large geologically complex body that formed in the early solar system"

Using oxygen isotopes made in collaboration with co-author Karen Ziegler of the Stable Isotope Laboratory Center of the UNM, the team was able to determine that it was definitely extraterrestrial.

"Based on oxygen isotopes, we know that it comes from an extraterrestrial source somewhere in the solar system, but we can not locate it in a known body that has been seen with a telescope," Srinivasan said.

"However, through the measured isotopic values, we could possibly link it with two other unusual meteorites (Northwest Africa 7235 and Almahata Sitta) suggesting that they are all from the same parent body, perhaps a large and geologically complex body that formed in the primitive solar system ".

Known as & # 39; Northwest Africa (NWA) 11119, & # 39; The meteorite the size of a baseball was found on a sand dune in Mauritania.

Known as & # 39; Northwest Africa (NWA) 11119, & # 39; The meteorite the size of a baseball was found on a sand dune in Mauritania.

Known as & # 39; Northwest Africa (NWA) 11119, & # 39; The meteorite the size of a baseball was found on a sand dune in Mauritania.

One possibility is that this parent body was broken by a collision with another asteroid or planetesimal and some of its ejected fragments eventually reached Earth's orbit, fell through the atmosphere and ended up as meteorites in the ground, in the case of NWA 11119, falling in Mauritania at a time unknown in the past.

"The oxygen isotopes of NWA11119, NWA 7235 and Almahata Sitta are all identical, but this rock – NWA 11119 – stands out as something completely different from any of the more than 40,000 meteorites that have been found on Earth," Srinivasan said.

Using an electron microprobe and a computed tomography (CT) scanner at the UNM and at the NASA Johnson Space Center facilities, lead author Poorna Srinivasan began to examine the composition and mineralogy of the rock. Srinivasan noted the complexities of NWA 11119, including its unusual light green fusion crust.

"The mineralogy of this rock is very, very different from anything we have worked on before," Srinivasan said.

"I examined the mineralogy to understand all the phases that make up the meteorite.

"One of the main things we saw first was the large silica crystals of tridymite, which is similar to the quartz mineral.

At the ASU Meteorite Study Center, scientists and co-authors Dunlap and Wadhwa used inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry in their Cosmochemistry and Isotopic Geochronology Laboratory, which helped determine the precise age of meteorite formation. The research confirmed that NWA 11119 is the oldest igneous meteorite ever recorded at 4.565 billion years.

At the ASU Meteorite Study Center, scientists and co-authors Dunlap and Wadhwa used inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry in their Cosmochemistry and Isotopic Geochronology Laboratory, which helped determine the precise age of meteorite formation. The research confirmed that NWA 11119 is the oldest igneous meteorite ever recorded at 4.565 billion years.

At the ASU Meteorite Study Center, scientists and co-authors Dunlap and Wadhwa used inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry in their Cosmochemistry and Isotopic Geochronology Laboratory, which helped determine the precise age of meteorite formation. The research confirmed that NWA 11119 is the oldest igneous meteorite ever recorded at 4.565 billion years.

The rock is lighter in color than most meteorites and is mixed with green crystals, cavities and melting melt, a type of rock texture that suggests rapid cooling and is often found in volcanic rocks that cool rapidly or they turn off when they surface quickly. .

The rock is lighter in color than most meteorites and is mixed with green crystals, cavities and melting melt, a type of rock texture that suggests rapid cooling and is often found in volcanic rocks that cool rapidly or they turn off when they surface quickly. .

The rock is lighter in color than most meteorites and is mixed with green crystals, cavities and melting melt, a type of rock texture that suggests rapid cooling and is often found in volcanic rocks that cool rapidly or they turn off when they surface quickly. .

"When we performed more image analysis to quantify tridymite, we found that the present amount was an amazing 30 percent of the total meteorite, this amount is unknown in meteorites and is only found at these levels in certain volcanic rocks on Earth. & # 39;

The chemical composition ranges of ancient igneous meteorites, or acondrites, are key to understanding the diversity and geochemical evolution of the planetary building blocks. The acondritic meteorites record the first episodes of volcanism and scab formation, most of which are of basaltic composition.

"This research is key to the formation of the building blocks of the planets at the beginning of the solar system," said co-author Carl Agee, director of the UNM Institute of Meteorology.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SPACE ROCKS?

A asteroid It is a large piece of rock that remains from the collisions or the primitive solar system. Most are between Mars and Jupiter in the main belt.

A Kite It is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much farther from the solar system.

A meteorite it is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns.

This garbage itself is known as meteoroid. Most are so small that they vaporize in the atmosphere.

If something of this meteoroid reaches Earth, it's called meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites usually originate from asteroids and comets.

For example, if the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the remains burn in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.

"When we look out of the solar system today, we see fully formed bodies, planets, asteroids, comets and so on, so our curiosity always pushes us to ask the question, how were they formed, how was the Earth formed?

"This is basically a missing part of the puzzle that we have now found that tells us that these igneous processes act like small blast furnaces that are melting rocks and processing all the solids in the solar system – that's how the planets are forged."

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