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Rare meteorite could contain secrets of life on earth

Rare meteorite could contain secrets of life on earth

An image of one of the fragments from the Winchcombe meteorite. Credit: Trustee for the Natural History Museum

Scientists are ready to uncover the secrets of a rare meteorite and possibly the origin of oceans and life on Earth thanks to STFC funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Research done on the meteorite that fell in Britain earlier this year suggests that the space rock dates back to the beginning of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

The meteorite is now officially classified, thanks in part to STFC-funded studies of the sample.

The Winchcombe meteorite, aptly named after the town of Gloucestershire where it landed, is an extremely rare type called a carbonaceous chondrite. It is a rocky meteorite, rich in water and organic matter, which has retained its chemistry from the formation of the solar system. Preliminary analyzes showing that Winchcombe is a member of the CM (“Mighei-like”

😉 group of carbonaceous chondrites have now been formally approved by the Meteoritical Society.

The STFC provided an emergency grant to help fund the work of planetary scientists throughout the UK. The funding has enabled the Natural History Museum to invest in advanced curation facilities to preserve the meteorite and also supported time-sensitive mineralogical and organic analyzes in specialist laboratories at several leading UK institutions.

Dr. Ashley King, a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum, said: “We are grateful for the support provided by STFC. Winchcombe is the first meteorite fall to be recovered in the UK in 30 years and the first carbonaceous chondrite ever recovered in our country.STFC’s funding helps us with this unique opportunity to discover the origin of water and life on earth.Through the funding we have been able to invest in state-of-the-art the-art equipment that has contributed to our analysis and research into the Winchcombe meteorite. “

The meteorite was tracked using images and video footage from the UK Fireball Alliance (UKFAll), a collaboration between the UK’s meteor camera network that includes the UK Fireball Network, which is funded by STFC. Fragments were then quickly located and recovered. Since its discovery, British scientists have studied Winchcombe to understand its mineralogy and chemistry to learn about how the solar system is formed.

Dr. Luke Daly of the University of Glasgow and co-lead of the UK Fireball Network said: “Being able to study Winchcombe is a dream come true. Many of us have spent our entire careers studying this type of rare meteorite. We are also involved “JAXA’s Hayabusa2 and NASA’s OSIRIS-REx missions, which aim to return pristine samples of carbonaceous asteroids to Earth, are a truly special event and a great opportunity for the British planetary scientific community.”

Funding from STFCs enabled researchers to quickly begin searching for signs of water and organic matter in Winchcombe before it could be polluted by the terrestrial environment.

Dr. Queenie Chan of Royal Holloway, University of London added: “The team’s preliminary analyzes confirm that Winchcombe contains a wide range of organic matter! Studying the meteorite only weeks after the autumn, before any significant soil pollution, means we are really looking back in time. by the ingredients that were present at the birth of the solar system, and learned about how they came together to create planets like Earth. “

A piece of the Winchcombe meteorite that was recovered during an organized search by the British Planetary Science Society is now on public display at London’s Natural History Museum.

Rare meteorite recovered in Britain after spectacular fireball

More information:
For more information on the classification of the Winchcombe meteorite: www.lpi.usra.edu/meteor/metbul… n = & snew = 0 & pnt = Normal% 20table & code = 74388% C2% A0

Provided by the University of Glasgow

Citation: Rare meteorite could contain secrets for life on earth (2021, July 9) retrieved July 9, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-rare-meteorite-secrets-life-earth.html

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