A meteorite found in Morocco is attracting research interest. Its composition foreshadows an extraordinary journey.
Leon – A meteorite is a piece of rock from space found on Earth. But not all meteorites are the same. Specimens have been found that can be traced back to Mars or the Moon, for example. However, most of the rocks from space are fragments of asteroids that curl up in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Many of them date back to the early days of the solar system, 4.5 billion years ago.
The example is completely different Northwest Africa 13188 (NWA 13188). This 646-gram meteorite was found in Morocco in 2018. According to experts, its composition indicates that it is an earthstone, possibly of volcanic origin. But a research team led by Jérôme Gacheca of the French research center CNRS has now discovered something that makes the meteorite unique: It appears to be the first meteorite to come from Earth.
Like a boomerang: a meteor that came from Earth and returned there
The research team presented the first land-based meteorite at the Goldschmidt Conference in Lyon. In the Abstractsaccompanying the presentation, the researchers wrote, “The presence of an advanced fusion crust strongly indicates that NWA 13188 is indeed a meteorite.”
In addition to the typical melted crust that forms when a stone falls through the Earth’s atmosphere and begins to glow there, the researchers discovered another piece of evidence: beryllium-10, helium-3, and neon-21 isotopes were found in such high concentrations in the stone that the only possible explanation is that they have remained in space for about 10,000 years. According to the researchers “It is impossible for NWA 13188 to be a ‘fake’ artificial meteorite.”
Like a boomerang: A meteorite would have been thrown into space during a volcanic eruption
It is unclear how exactly the meteorite as a ricochet from Earth reached space and later returned to Earth. The stone could have been thrown from Earth into space when a celestial body collided with it. Alternatively, it could have entered space during a volcanic eruption. However, the rock ended up in space and returned to Earth in the form of a meteorite. The French research team wants to continue studying the first terrestrial meteorite and find out how and when it formed.
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NWA 13188 isn’t the only meteorite currently being studied on Earth: a meteorite that hit a home at Elmshorn is also being analyzed. And a Harvard researcher claims to have fished out pieces of an interstellar meteorite from the sea. (unpaid bill)
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