A man keeps a stone for years, hoping that it is gold. It turned out to be far more valuable: ScienceAlert
In 2015, David Hole researched in Maryborough Regional Park near Melbourne, Australia.
Armed with a metal detector, he discovered something unusual – a very heavy, reddish rock embedded in yellow clay.
He took it home and tried everything to open it, certain that there was a nugget of gold in the rock – after all, Maryborough is in the Goldfields region, where the Australian gold rush reached its peak in the 19th century.
To open his find, Hole tried a stone saw, an angle grinder, a drill, and even doused the thing in acid. However, not even a sledgehammer could make a crack. That’s because what he was trying so hard to open wasn’t a gold nugget.
As he found out years later, it was a rare meteorite.
“It had this sculpted, dimpled look,” Melbourne Museum geologist Dermot Henry said Sydney Morning Herald in 2019
“It forms when they go through the atmosphere, melt on the outside, and the atmosphere shapes them.”
Unable to open the ‘stone’, but still intrigued, Hole took the nugget to the Melbourne Museum for identification.
“I’ve looked at a lot of rocks that people think are meteorites,” Henry told Channel 10 News.
In fact, after 37 years at the museum and examining thousands of rocks, Henry said only two offerings have ever turned out to be genuine meteorites.
This was one of them.
“If you saw a rock like this on Earth and picked it up, it shouldn’t be that heavy,” Melbourne Museum geologist Bill Birch said. explained it Sydney Morning Herald.
Researchers have published a scientific paper describing the 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite, which they named Maryborough after the town near where it was found.
It weighs a whopping 17 kilograms (37.5 pounds), and after using a diamond saw to cut off a small slice, the researchers discovered that its composition contains a high percentage of iron, making it H5 ordinary chondrite.
Once it is opened, you can also see tiny crystallized droplets of metallic minerals throughout it, the so-called chondrules.
“Meteorites provide the cheapest form of space exploration. They transport us back in time, providing clues about the age, formation and chemistry of our solar system (including Earth).” Henry said.
“Some provide a glimpse into the deep interior of our planet. Some meteorites contain ‘stardust’ older than even our solar system, showing us how stars form and evolve to create the elements of the periodic table.
“Other rare meteorites contain organic molecules such as amino acids; the building blocks of life.”
Although researchers don’t yet know where the meteorite came from or how long it may have been on Earth, they have some guesses.
Our solar system was once a rotating pile of dust and chondrites. Eventually, gravity pulled much of this material into the planets, but the remnants mostly ended up in the giant an asteroid belt.
“This meteorite most likely exits the asteroid belt in between mars and Jupiterand it was pushed out of there by some asteroids hitting each other, and then one day it smashed into Earth,” Henry told Channel 10 News.
Carbon dating suggests the meteorite was on Earth between 100 and 1,000 years, and there were several sightings of the meteor between 1889 and 1951 that could correspond to its arrival on our planet.
Researchers claim the Maryborough meteorite is much rarer than gold, making it far more valuable to science. It is one of only 17 meteorites ever recorded in the Australian state of Victoria, and is the second largest chondritic mass, after a colossal 55 kilogram specimen identified in 2003.
“This is only the 17th meteorite found in Victoria, while thousands of gold nuggets have been found,” Henry told Channel 10 News.
“Looking at the chain of events, it’s pretty, you might say, astronomical that it was discovered in the first place.”
It’s not even the first meteorite to take years to reach a museum. In a particularly amazing story In 2018, ScienceAlert reported that one space rock took 80 years, two owners, and a standoff before it was finally revealed for what it really was.
Now is probably as good a time as any to check your yard for particularly heavy and hard-to-break rocks—you might be sitting on a metaphorical gold mine.
The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria.
A version of this article was originally published in July 2019.
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