Stardust from meteorite is oldest 'stuff' ever found

Egg Nebula are plausible sources of the large presolar silicon carbide grains found in meteorites like Murchison. and R. Sahai. Inset SiC grain with

Based on how many cosmic rays had interacted with the grains, most had to be 4.6-4.9 billion years old.

To separate the old grains from the relatively younger ones, the scientists crushed fragments of the meteorite powder.

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

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Though the universe abounds with floating stardust, no presolar grains have ever been found in Earth's rocks.

The space rock broke up in the atmosphere above Australia on September 28, 1969, and scientists later collected pieces scattered across the town of Murchison in the state of Victoria.

And, Heck said, the discovery of a furious starburst in microscopic grains wrapped up in a meteorite confirms that star formation ebbs and flows.

Heck and an worldwide team of cosmochemists published the new study on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. This in flip informs them how dilapidated it is some distance. Since presolar grains are formed when a star dies, they can tell us about the history of stars. The dust grains analyzed in the research were formed before the solar system's formation which is also known as "presolar grains". Those dust grains, formed somewhere in the Milky Way, clumped together and eventually made their way into the disk of gas and dust around the newborn sun, where they mixed with material that aggregated into an asteroid. They can exist for billions of years before dying and expelling their key ingredients into space. "With stardust, we can trace that material back to the time before the Sun".

Scanning electron micrograph of a dated presolar silicon carbide grain.

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Researchers were able to determine the age of the grains and what type of star they came from. The particle size is the first micrometers. That means the minerals were formed before the Sun was born.

Measuring how numerous new elements are present tells scientists how long the grain was exposed to cosmic rays. These rays are high-energy particles that zip through space at the speed of light and pierce solid matter. The longer they are exposed, the more of these elements form.

His team discovered that about 60% of the grains are between 4.6 and 4.9 billion years old, while some other grains are even older: 5.5 billion years or more. The majority were 4.6 billion to 4.9 billion years old - not as extreme but still hundreds of millions of years older than the solar system.

Researchers said Monday that new techniques have allowed them to identify the oldest solid material ever found on earth. The exotic makeup of the silicon carbide grains, from a meteorite that landed in Australia more than 50 years ago, tipped scientists off that the minerals were older than the solar system (SN: 11/22/19). Heck said about 70,000 meteorites are now known to science, and of those, "at most 5% of these contain presolar grains". Their incredibly tiny size is hard to understand.

"It starts with crushing powdered meteorite fragments", said study co-author Jennika Greer and graduate student at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago. These "pre-solar grains" then get incorporated into new stars, planets, moons and meteorites.

"I can compare our work with finding a needle in a haystack".

Tens of thousands of presolar grains were extracted from the Murchison meteorite, but only 40 were large enough to be dated, he added. "When a star forms, it doesn't produce dust".

Astronomers have long debated whether new stars form at steady rate or in accelerated bursts. "There was a time before the start of the Solar System when more stars formed than normal".

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