Scientists from the University of Plymouth are helping to uncover the secrets of a rare meteorite which could possibly reveal the origins of oceans and life on Earth.
Research carried out on the Winchcombe meteorite, which fell in and around the Gloucestershire town earlier this year, estimates the space rock dates back to the beginning of the solar system, 4.5 billion years ago.
The meteorite was tracked using video footage from the UK’s meteor camera networks, including the UK Fireball Network, and fragments where then quickly located and recovered.
Since the discovery, UK planetary scientists – including Dr Natasha Stephen and colleagues in the University’s Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC) – have been trying to determine its mineralogy and chemistry to better understand how the solar system formed.
They have found the meteorite is a carbonaceous chondrite – a stony material, rich in water and organic matter, which has retained its chemistry from the formation of the solar system.
In fact, initial analyses – funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) – have shown it to be a member of the CM (“Mighei-type”) group of carbonaceous chondrites, a classification has now been formally approved by the Meteoritical Society.