A meteorite more than 4.5 billion years old found in the sands of the Algerian desert may be part of a protoplanet, researchers at the University of West Brittany in France have said.
According to an in-depth analysis of the composition and age of the rock, a team of international researchers recently published a study in the PNAS called the meteorite, known as the Erc Chech 002. Not only is it older than Earth, it formed into a volcano that suggests it may have once been part of the crust of an object called a protoplanet.
Like that, Indicates a unique opportunity to study the early stages of planetary formation and to learn more about conditions in the early days of the solar system, When the stars we know today are still forming.
EC 002 was discovered in May last year and contains several rocks weighing up to 32 kilograms in the Erk Chech Sand Sea in southwestern Algeria. He was identified with extraordinary speed; Instead of the chondritic composition of most recovered meteorites formed when dust and rock fragments stick together, their structure, consisting of pyroxene crystals, was lacking.
Therefore, Classified as an achondrite, a meteorite that appears to be a volcanic object, formed from a body that is subject to internal fusion, which separates the center from the surface, a protoplanet, One of the intermediate stages of the formation of the planet.
Of the tens of thousands of meteorites identified, Only a few thousand (3,179, according to the weather bulletin database) are chondrites.
Most of these Achondrites come from one of the two parent bodies and are basaltic in composition. This means that they cannot say much about the diversity of protoplanets in the early solar system.
EC 002, on the other hand, is not a basaltic, but a type of volcanic rock called antisite, determined by a team of scientists led by geochemist Jean-Alix Bart at the University of Western Brittany in France.
Of all the meteorites we have discovered to date, even among the achondrite, This makes EC 002 very rare and opens up a new way to understand planetary formation.
According to the team’s analysis, the rock is the oldest. The radioactive decay of the aluminum and magnesium isotopes suggests that these two minerals crystallized about 4.565 million years ago in an original body that accumulated 4.566 million years ago. To the environment, the Earth is 4.54 billion years old.
“This meteorite is the oldest magmatic rock analyzed to date, and sheds light on the formation of primitive crustaceans containing ancient protoplanets”, “he said. The researchers wrote in their article.
Unlike basalt, which is formed from the rapid cooling of magnesium and iron-rich volcanoes, the antacid is mainly composed of sodium-rich silicates and, at least on Earth, forms in repressive zones, where the edge of a tectonic plate is pushed down.
Although it is rarely found in meteorites, the recent discovery of antacids in meteorites found in Antarctica and Mauritania prompted scientists to study how it could occur. Experimental evidence suggests that it may be formed from a combination of chondritic substances.
Because Sondritic bodies were more common in the solar system, and the formation of antacid crusted protoplanets was also common. However, when comparing the spectral properties of group EC 002, viz The way it interacts with light, the spectral properties of asteroids, nothing can be found in the solar system that is compatible with meteorites.
Remnants of antacids are not only rare on the meteorite record; They are also rare in the asteroid belt. It begs the question: if the training process is very simple and general, Where did the different protoplanets come from?
Probably most of the solar system’s products ended up in the same place: Or it was drilled or attached to large rock bodies; Or, perhaps, a combination of the two.
Since EC 002 is slightly older than Earth, It is even possible that the baby helped its protoplanetary siblings to build the Earth from a knot of dense matter in a cloud of dust orbiting the sun.
Although we have a good decent understanding of how baby planets evolve over millions of years as clusters of rocks and dust come together, the details of this process are still a little mysterious.
EC 002 represents a wonderful opportunity to sharpen our understanding of how our home system came from dust.