Tuesday, August 4, 2020

New Discovery: The oldest material on Earth is older than the solar system

New analysis of a meteorite has revealed that it contains stardust that formed between 5-7 billion years ago. That is much older than even our solar system as our sun is only 4.6 billion years old. The meteorite fell to Earth around 50 years ago and landed in Australia. The ancient stardust found in the meteorite is called “presolar grains” as they formed before our sun.

Stars are formed due to the right combination of dust, heat, and gas. After existing for billions of years, they decompose into these elements again to form new stars. The dust that existed before the formation of a certain star is called “presolar grains.”

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Presolar Grains
Image: Janaína N. Ávila

Why are the presolar grains important?

The meteorite that crashed into Australia has been around since before the existence of our solar system. This includes all the planets in our solar system as well. Though it is very unlikely, this meteorite (once an asteroid), was preserved in space and did not get damaged or pushed back during the creation of our solar system. Almost all cosmic bodies (planets, asteroids, etc.) in our solar system has existed since or after our sun was “born.”

This is what makes the stardust so interesting. The probability of “presolar grains” just happening to fall to Earth in the form of a meteorite is very small. Only about 5% of meteorites found on Earth contain presolar grains. The size of these particles is also unimaginably small. A hundred of the largest presolar grains are about the size of a period (.).

The key to the Solar System

The new discovery of these makes them the oldest material on Earth, predating the Solar System itself. Scientists will take time to analyze the dust further and possibly unlock secrets about our sun and solar system. How did our solar system form? What was here before our sun? What is the future of our solar system?

Presolar Grains

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There are so many questions that remain unanswered about the secrets before the time of our solar system. Presolar grains could also answer questions about the creation of solar systems, and possibly the universe. Are you excited about this new discovery? Let us know in the comments below!

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