Scientists discovered the source of one of the rarest meteorites that fell to Earth
K scientists believe they have identified the source of one of the rarest meteorites ever to hit Earth.
Based on analysis of an asteroid known as Ryugu, experts believe that the Ivuna rock may have come from the edge of the solar system.
The NHM team said its findings, published in the journal Science Advances, could reveal more answers about the early history of the solar system and shed more light on how life originated on Earth.
Professor Sarah RussellThe museum’s senior research manager, who co-authored the paper, told the PA news agency: “For me it’s a really exciting discovery because it shows that meteorites in our museum and in collections around the world could actually sample most of the solid solar system, from the innermost rocky part to its outermost reaches.
“We can use them to learn more about our origins and about all our companion planets.”
Ivuna belongs to the category of extremely rare meteorites known as CI chondrites.
These are stony meteorites that contain carbon and retain their original primitive chemistry since the formation of the solar system more than four billion years ago.
They are known to contain water – one of the key ingredients for life.
Professor Russell said that apart from Ivuna, there are only four other known CI-type meteorites on Earth: Orgueil and Alais, which both fell in France, Tonk which fell in India and the small Revelstoke meteorite which fell in Canada.
She said: “It is only in the last decade that we have begun to understand how far objects in the solar system can move towards and away from the sun.
For the purpose of the study, the team examined samples of Ryugu, which were remotely returned to Earth in 2020. Japanese the Hayabusa2 spacecraft.
Ryugu, which is classified as a near-Earth object, is thought to have been born in the outer solar system more than four billion years ago and separated from the larger body, migrating towards Earth.
It is now located between Earth and Mars and orbits the Sun.
Ryugu belongs to a class of asteroids called carbonaceous or C-type asteroids.
C-type asteroids are rich in water, carbon and organic compounds from the time when the solar system was formed.
The researchers said that both Ryugu and CI chondrites come from the same region of space – the outskirts of the solar system – and they cannot rule out the possibility that they might even share the same parent body.
Professor Russell said: “By comparing the forms of iron in both asteroids and meteorites, we learned that Ryugu is remarkably close to CI chondrites.”
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