A chunk of rock that fell from space and landed in Egypt might be a vital clue in how the sun, Earth and other planets were formed.
A study, published by scientists from the University of Johannesburg in the Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, examines the exotic micro-mineral compounds in the Hypatia stone, which was discovered in 1996.
In 2013, Professor Jan Kramers and his co-authors announced the stone, found in south-west Egypt, was not from Earth. In 2015, they discovered the stone was not part of any known meteorite or comet.
Professor Kramers explained that if the entire planet Earth was grounded into dust we would “expect to see a small amount of carbon and a good amount of silicon” but the Hypatia has “a massive amount of carbon and an unusually small amount of silicon”.
After further analysis, the team discovered the matter which formed the rock “existed in space before our sun, the Earth and other planets in our solar system were formed”.
Dr Georgy Belyanin, a Department of Geology research fellow from Johannesburg University, said the ratios of three minerals, phosphides, metallic aluminium and moissanite, found in the stone “are unique within our solar system”.
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"Was the bulk of Hypatia, the matrix, also formed before our solar system? Probably not, because you need a dense dust cloud like the solar nebula to coagulate large bodies,” he said.
Professor Kramers said the team’s next step will be to determine exactly where the Hypatia came from.