In 1806, a 6-kg meteorite carrying carbon-based, organic chemicals was identified for the first time. Studies of meteorites may lead to a better understanding the origin of the solar system.
Graced by astronomical serendipity, scientists now have in their hands the fragments of an asteroid they’d tracked, from its journey through space to its collision with Earth last October. The meteorites—surviving remnants of the 80,000-kg asteroid—sprayed over the Nubian Desert in northern Sudan (Nature 2009, 458, 485).
Asteroids contain the best record of the origin of the solar system, but scientists have not been able to link them to the meteorites they’ve collected so far. The location, size, and composition of asteroids are needed to study their roles in solar system formation.
“We have 40,000 samples of meteorites, but we don’t know where a single one of them came from,” Michael E. Zolensky, a cosmic mineralogist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., said at a press conference held on March 24. “What’s different this time is that we know exactly which asteroid these meteorites came from,” he said.
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Excerpted with permission, Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society