Scientists Find 7-Billion-Year-Old Stardust in Murchison Meteorite | Planetary Science

Scanning electron microscope image of the 6.2-billion-year-old grain of silicon carbide from the Murchison meteorite. Image credit Heck et al doi 10.1073/pnas.1904573117

"Some people think that the star formation rate of the galaxy is constant", Heck said.

Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The researchers used a particular form (isotope) of the element neon - Ne-21 - to date the grains. A fallen grain, as part of our galactic history, is the closest thing to a sample return from a star.

Now, a team of scientists led by Philipp Heck, from the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, has worked out how old the stardust is-with some of the grains dating back seven billion years.

Nonetheless, the oldest yielded a date of around 7.5 billion years dilapidated. The earliest for the forty tiny dust particles based in the meteorite are about 7 billion years of age, about 2.5 billion many years prior to the sunshine, the planet earth as well as the other countries in the solar power system had been created.

Stars are born when dust and gas floating through space collapsed in on each other and heat up. They continue to burn for billions of years until they die, setting off a supernova explosion.

Understanding the grains has shed light not only on stars and how long their stardust can last but also more on galaxies and their timelines.

Scanning electron micrograph of a dated presolar silicon carbide grain.

Dissolving the paste in acid reveals the presolar grains, allowing the researchers to determine their age and the type of star they once belonged to.

When tiny, energetic particles called cosmic rays zip through space, they can strike minerals within rocks like tiny space bullets.


"Some of these cosmic rays interact with the matter and form new elements", Heck said. Thus, the longer a sample is exposed, the more secondary elements are formed. Our sun, by comparison, is 4.6 billion years old, and Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Now, a new study has identified the oldest known solid material on the planet that precedes the formation of the Solar System. It beats the oldest rocks on Earth, which were previously considered the most ancient material: zircon crystals discovered in Australia in 2014. Billions of years later, a chunk of that asteroid crashed into Australia.

Dr Heck told BBC News: "Ideal 10% of the grains are older than 5.5 billion years, 60% of the grains are "younger" (at) 4.6 to 4.9 billion years dilapidated, and the remaining are in between the oldest and youngest ones".

First of all, you have to get the stardust out of the meteorite.

Measuring what number of of the novel ingredients are relate tells scientists how prolonged the grain modified into as soon as uncovered to cosmic rays.

"Only a few meteorites are as large as Murchison and as rich in grains as Murchison", he said.

The paste of ground-up meteorite released a stench "like rotten peanut butter", study co-author Jennika Greer, a graduate student at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago, said in a statement. This is why the discovery of pre-solar grains is so rare - only 5% of the meteorites found on Earth contain it.

He describes the method as "burning down the haystack to find the needle", and while some presolar material is lost in the process, the technique has yielded tens of thousands of presolar grains, but only about 100 "large ones".

Presolar grains for this study were isolated from the Murchison meteorite about 30 years ago at the University of Chicago. Heck and colleagues examined formed before our Sun was born. "But thanks to these grains, we now have direct evidence of an improved star formation period in our galaxy seven billion years ago with meteorite samples".

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