A small fragment of rock discovered in Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom has similar age as the Solar System, around 4.6 billion years. The small fragment referred to as the Winchcombe meteorite hails from someplace out previous the orbit of Mars. Kicked out via gravitational interactions or a collision between asteroids. The fragment tumbled around and finally ended up punching thru our environment to land on Earth as a meteorite.
Its arrival created a stir. Not only was it the first meteorite to be recovered on the continent in 30 years, but it turned out to be a rare kind, known as a carbonaceous chondrite.
It is a rocky meteorite, rather than iron, made up primarily of carbon and silicon. These materials are less likely to survive the rigors of atmospheric entry than iron rocks. This is why carbonaceous chondrites are few and far between.
The blackened chunk of space rock will be undergoing a suite of analyses, including electron microscopy, vibrational spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction. These techniques will help reveal the physical structure of the rock, as well as what it’s made of in depth.
The bulk of the meteorite is comprised of minerals such as olivine and phyllosilicates, with other mineral inclusions called chondrules. However, the composition is different to anything found on earth.
Microscopist Shaun Fowler of Loughborough University in the United Kingdom says ““It doesn’t appear to have undergone thermal metamorphism, which means it’s been sitting out there, past Mars, untouched, since before any of the planets were created, meaning we have the rare opportunity to examine a piece of our primordial past.”
The research is ongoing.