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New meteorite discovery points to existence of unknown solar system object

New meteorite discovery points to existence of unknown solar system object

The minor planet, ‘4 Vesta’, is thought to be similar to the source of the first meteorite found by scientists using the Desert Fireball Network.

New meteorite discovery points to existence of unknown solar system object—19 November 2017

Researchers based at Curtin University have performed an analysis of a meteorite found in the Australian desert, and have discovered that it originated from a previously unknown solar system body. The meteorite was the first to be discovered using the Desert Fireball Network, which is supported by the ARC through the Australian Laureate FellowshipsDiscovery Projects and Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities schemes.

By analysing trace elements in the meteorite, as well as the isotopes of chromium and oxygen, the researchers were able to determine the likely characteristics of the original source body, which matches no known solar system object. The object may have been similar to the minor planet, ‘4 Vesta’, which is 525 km diameter and is the most likely source of a large class of meteorites known as ‘howardite–eucrite–diogenite (HED) achondrites’. The discovery suggests that another large body like 4 Vesta remains undiscovered, or it has been destroyed or changed by impacts and weathering in space.

The Desert Fireball Network comprises a network of cameras across Australia that observe where meteoroids enter the atmosphere, allowing scientists to find where they land, and calculate their origin. Knowing where a meteorite came from, and what it is made of, may help to determine how our planetary system came into being, and our own planet became capable of supporting life.

The research has been published in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta

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