Alien Meteorite Found in the Sahara Is Older Than Our Solar System
2017 was a year of excitement among the asteroid-watching community, as 'Oumuamua, the first recorded visitor from an another solar system, took a spin around our sun before launching itself off into the inky blackness of space.
According to a team at the University of Johannesburg, though, 'Oumuamua is far from the first visitor from another solar system that we have available to study. One such alien rock is right here on Earth, making it far easier to study.
The anomalous rock widely called the Hypatia stone was discovered in 1996 in a remote part of the Sahara desert, surrounded by strange yellow glass that defied explanation. For two decades, scientists have endeavored to discover the rock's origins, and find out exactly how it was formed, and how it arrived in the middle of the desert.
There have been several theories into the stone's origins, but a new study seem to have clarified a few key points: not only is the Hypatia stone made up of material that formed outside our own solar system, but the rock is even older than our sun, and all the planets and meteorites that orbit around it.
According to Jan Kramers, lead author on the new study:
"Even more unusual, the matrix contains a high amount of very specific carbon compounds, called polyaromatic hydrocarbons (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."
While not much is known about the conditions that formed the rock, it must have taken place in particularly low temperatures in the depths of space, far away from any large source of solar energy. The rock then must have somehow traveled to our planet once it was formed, and crashed into the desert relatively recently in its history.
This would explain the yellow glass found near the Hypatia stone when it crash landed here - the heat of the stone's arrival would have melted some of the nearby sand.
It's interesting just how different the Hypatia stone is to anything else that we've encountered thus far in our solar system. There aren't many examples of such odd, unusual rock, and to a certain extent it's a stroke of good fortune that something so rare and valuable has landed on Earth, in a place where it could lay undisturbed until found and placed in the hands of scientists.
With any luck, as experts continue to study the Hypatia stone, we might be able to learn even more about our solar system, and how stars and planets form in different and unique ways across the galaxy.