Stone Found In Egypt Is Unlike Anything Seen In Our Solar System

Posted: Jan 13 2018, 1:35am CST | by , Updated: Jan 13 2018, 1:42am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Stone Found in Egypt is Unlike Anything Seen in our Solar System
Credit: Dr Mario di Martino, INAF Osservatorio Astrofysico di Torino

Micro-mineral analyses of the pebble Hypatia reveals that it is definitely not from Earth

An unusual stone that was picked up in Egypt years ago is literally out of this world. Given its weird composition, researchers concluded that it does not belong to any known types of comets or meteorites and is likely originated from outside our solar system.

The stone, named Hypatia, was found in a desert of southwest Egypt in 1996. It is only 1.3 inches wide and weighs around 30 grams. Its internal structure is somewhat like a fruitcake that has fallen off a shelf and cracked on impact.

Researchers theorize that the stone is a part of an extraterrestrial rock that was at least several meters wide and fell from space onto Earth. Upon collision, it disintegrated into several small fragments of which Hypatia stone is the one.

“We can think of the badly mixed dough of a fruit cake representing the bulk of the Hypatia pebble, what we called two mixed 'matrices' in geology terms. The glace cherries and nuts in the cake represent the mineral grains found in Hypatia 'inclusions'. And the flour dusting the cracks of the fallen cake represent the 'secondary materials' we found in the fractures in Hypatia, which are from Earth.” Prof Jan Kramers, lead researcher of the study, said in a statement.

When researcher analyzed the mineral grains in Hypatia, they found a number of most surprising chemical elements. Some of its minerals are found nowhere on Earth, not even in our solar system, confirming its extraterrestrial origin.

Researchers also suggest that at least some parts of the stone may have existed before the formation of our solar system.

"In chondritic meteorites, we expect to see a small amount of carbon{C} and a good amount of silicon (Si). But Hypatia's matrix has a massive amount of carbon and an unusually small amount of silicon,” said Kramers.

"Even more unusual, the matrix contains a high amount of very specific carbon compounds, called polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH, a major component of interstellar dust, which existed even before our solar system was formed. Interstellar dust is also found in comets and meteorites that have not been heated up for a prolonged period in their history.”

Furthermore, most of the organic compounds of Hypatia have been transformed into diamonds smaller than one micrometer. They are likely formed in the shock of impact when extraterrestrial rock entered the Earth’s atmosphere. These diamonds have made Hypatia so resistant to weather that it was perfectly well- preserved for analysis from the time it arrived on Earth.

New findings have opened a new window into the origin of this weird pebble known as Hypatia. Further studies could provide more clues on its parent body and its structure.

Dr Marco Andreoli, a Research Fellow at the School of Geosciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, and a member of the Hypatia research team says, "When Hypatia was first found to be extraterrestrial, it was a sensation, but these latest results are opening up even bigger questions about its origins".

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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