Meteorite that landed in an English village last year is the most pristine ever seen
A meteorite that lit up the sky over an English village last year is nearly as pristine as samples collected by space probes and contains the “right” kind of hydrogen to explain water on Earth, scientists say.
A huge uproar broke out when A fireball rattled through the evening sky over south west England on February 28, 2021. Dozens meteor cameras and doorbell webcams caught a glimpse of the bright streak, and a 1-pound (0.5-kilogram) fragment of the space rock was promptly found in the driveway of a house in the village of Winchcombe, after which the meteorite was later named.
The rapid discovery meant that the meteorite was barely exposed to Earth’s elements, allowing it to retain its pristine chemical composition. In fact, the composition of the Winchcombe meteorite is so pure that it almost matches samples collected by space probes such as NASA’s OSIRIS REx from asteroids in space, researchers said in a new study.
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The analysis of this precious rock has yielded fascinating results that seem to support the theory Soil‘s water came mainly from asteroids. The Winchcombe space rock contains hydrogen atoms with an isotopic composition very similar to that found in Earth’s water. Isotopes are varieties of the same chemical elements that differ by the number of neutrons in their atomic nuclei. Other possible sources of earth water, such as Come eatwere found to contain water with different isotope profiles.
The analysis also found that the meteorite must have broken off from its parent asteroid fairly recently in the cosmic scheme of things — just 200,000 to 300,000 years ago. Most meteorites, scientists said in the paper, spend millions of years in interplanetary space before their path crosses that of Earth, and during that time they are plagued by cosmic rays and solar energy wind.
By analyzing data from the cameras that captured the cruise of the Winchcombe meteorite the Earth’s atmosphereastronomers were able to reconstruct the rock’s orbit and determine that the parent asteroid was in the main asteroid belt between jobs Mars and Jupiter instead of among the near-Earth asteroids.
The Winchcombe meteorite is one carbonaceous chondritea rare class of meteorites believed to have originated from very primitive asteroids that migrated from the outer edges of the asteroid belt into the main asteroid belt solar system. Scientists believe that the chemical composition of these asteroids has hardly changed since the birth of the solar system. And that means the Winchcombe meteorite, thanks to its pristine nature, offers a unique glimpse into these ancient “time capsules”.
In addition to the right kinds of hydrogen, the meteorite also contains organic material of the kind that could have led to life on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago, the scientists said in a press release. pronunciation (opens in new tab).
Overall, the Winchcombe meteorite was a very lucky hit.
“Direct connections between carbonaceous chondrites and their solar system parent bodies are rare,” the scientists said in the paper. “The Winchcombe meteorite is the most accurately recorded carbonaceous chondrite fall.”
Only four journeys of carbonaceous chondrites through Earth’s atmosphere have been observed so far so well that their origins could be determined. Most of the others discovered “are accidental finds that have no information about their source region in the solar system,” the researchers said in the paper.
The study (opens in new tab) a description of the first analysis of this precious rock was published Nov. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
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