Interstellar Material Older Than Our Solar System Found in Meteorite Chunk

Scientists were surprised with their findings on the Allende meteorite.
Fabienne Lang
The 1969 Allende meteorite where the matter was foundChip Clark/The Planetary Society

The Allende meteorite came hurtling down to Earth into Mexico in 1969. Fifty-one years later, scientists have made a surprising discovery that the Space rock contains interstellar material that pre-dates our Solar System.

Moreover, the material exists in a form that wasn't believed possible until now. 

The findings were published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday. 


Rare interstellar stardust discovery

A team of researchers from Washington University in St. Louis led the study and were in awe of the discovery of such incredibly ancient material. Pre-solar grains, or stardust from interstellar space, are very rare to find, but not unheard of.

This recently-discovered matter in the Allende meteorite is the oldest known material on Earth, ranging somewhere between five and seven-billion-years-old. This makes it older than our Solar System, which is 4.6-billion-years-old.

The Washington University in St. Louis' researchers' excitement is thus understandable.

The pre-solar interstellar grains are made up of silicon carbide (SiC) and were discovered within a section in the meteorite called Curious Marie — after Marie Curie.

Olga Pravdivtseva, physicist and cosmochemistry researcher part of the study said "What is surprising is the fact that presolar grains are present."

Pravtivtseva continued "Following our current understanding of Solar System formation, presolar grains could not survive in the environment where these inclusions are formed."

This opens up an exciting can of worms for researchers.

Interstellar Material Older Than Our Solar System Found in Meteorite Chunk
Researcher Olga Pravdivtseva, Source: Whitney Curtis/Washington University

The researchers don't yet know how silicon carbide from another star came to be lodged in the meteorite, but it now means that they have to rethink what was previously known about chemistry at the beginning of our Solar System. 

As the researchers write in their study, "Although CAIs, the oldest dated Solar System solids, have been extensively studied, questions still remain regarding the nature and origin of the isotopic anomalies that they carry, their distribution among primitive meteoritic classes and the relationships to other meteoritic components."


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