Tech & Science researchers are amazed at the origin of a meteorite that struck Earth 19 years ago
A car-size asteroid exploded in the atmosphere south of Puerto Rico. Weather satellite and radar captured the moment.
Astronomers at the University of Hawaii said they were able to detect the space rock hours before impact.
First a bright glow in the sky. Then you can see the explosion. And you only hear and feel them seconds later. In this way, 19 years ago, on January 18, 2000, a 200 to 250 ton meteorite struck the frozen Tagish Lake in British Columbia, Canada.
Today, only fragments of the space chunk, which is said to have been four to seven meters in diameter, remain - revealing fragments. Because thanks to them, the long journey that the meteorite has made can be understood.
The meteorite from Tagish Lake is a so-called carbon chondrite, i.e. a rock with a high proportion of organic, carbon-containing substances. Its chemical composition. The meteorite was probably itself only a fragment of a D-asteroid, which is characterized by a surface consisting mainly of silicates and carbon compounds.
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As an international research team found out from an analysis of carbon, the mother asteroid of the meteorite formed far out in the solar system - roughly where Uranus and Neptune are today. However, the boulder could also have come from the Kuiper belt, where thousands of icy boulders are still trailing far behind the orbit of Neptune, according to the research paper,. Such meteorites can only form in the icy regions of our solar system
“The ambient temperature at which an asteroid has formed is crucial for determining its original position. It is determined by the amount of volatile substances contained in it, ”explained Peter Hoppe from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, who was involved in the project,.
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The unusually high proportion of carbonates in the fragments of the meteorite suggests that the lump originated far out in the coldest regions of the solar system. “Carbonates are formed during aqueous reactions of CO2 with calcium or another element. This discovery indicates that there was once a large amount of 13C-rich CO2 ice in the mother asteroid, ”says researcher
Read also: A surprising key factor for life on earth could have come to the planet with meteoritesOnly in the outermost areas of our solar system are the conditions available for the CO2, which only occurs in gaseous form, to freeze. The ratio between CO2 and water provided another clue: Here
, the researchers found comet-like ratiosDue to the strong gravitational forces of the outer gas planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, the chunk is said to have been thrown into the interior of the solar system, only to eventually land in Tagish Lake in Canada.
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