Research: Oldest-ever igneous meteorite contains clues to planet building blocks

Christopher Davidson
August 9, 2018

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

Oldest-ever meteorite found in Africa... and could unlock the solar system's secrets, scientists say The oldest meteorite ever discovered could help researchers on their quest for truth: discovering how our solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago. That dealer sent the specimen to Carl Agee, a planetary geologist and meteorite curator at the University of New Mexico. The discovery could help scientists further understand the complexities of planet formation.

Srinivasan is the lead author on the study describing NWA 11119, published yesterday (Aug. 2) in the journal Nature Communications. Srinivasan said that we did not accept that this rock was a meteorite at all. This kind of composition is unheard of in meteorites - which typically have "basaltic" compositions with much lower abundances of silica - and can only be found in certain volcanic rocks from Earth. That's why the researchers suspect that NWA 11119 is a crustal rock from an asteroid with a crust layer that formed in a way similar to how Earth's crust formed. Researchers say it's around 4.56 billion years old, making it the oldest meteorite ever found.

'Earth is a dynamic planet - processes such as plate tectonics and erosion have erased most of the early Earth records.

The tumultuous period during the birth of the Solar System saw space rocks swarming around the growing gravitational field of the Sun and colliding at a rapid rate to form the planets, moons and meteors we see today.

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Most meteorites are formed through the collision of asteroids orbiting the sun in a region called the asteroid belt. Past studies mostly focused on two other building blocks of life abundant in organics - hydrogen and nitrogen. It turned out that the first volcanoes were formed during the appearance of the Solar system.

Isotope analysis of the 4.5 billion year-old Orgueil meteorite revealed traces of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulphur - all of which are central to the beginnings of life. "Meteorites like this were the precursors to planet formation and represent a critical step in the evolution of rocky bodies in our solar system", co-author and Arizona State University graduate student Daniel Dunlap said in the statement.

Dr Romain, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences said, 'Chondrites are a snapshot of the early Solar System, providing key insights on how protoplanets and planets formed and were processed. They thought it belonged to the Earth.

The rock is made of the first solid materials - such as rocks, organics, water ice, and fine grain dust - that formed in our Solar System.

"Ultimately, this is how planets are forged", he added.

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