Oldest material ever found on Earth predates the entire solar system

Pablo Tucker
January 14, 2020

The star dust found on the meteorite is called presolars because they formed before our sun.

The ratios of carbon-12 to carbon-13 isotopes in these grains were a ideal match to what astronomers have observed in the clouds of dust and gas around ageing stars like the Egg Nebula and the Ring Nebula. They can exist for millions or even billions of years before they die and expel their key ingredients into space. This in turn helps the new star will be born, creating a daisy chain space.

Star dust is found in 5% have fallen to the Ground meteorites.

A hundred of the largest presolate grains found could hold over a period, according to a statement from the Field Museum in Chicago.

And one of the grains analyzed in a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is estimated to be roughly 7 billion years old, making it the oldest known material on Earth.


"We have more young grains that we expected", said Professor Heck. That's because plate tectonics, volcanism and other planetary processes heated and transformed all the presolar dust that may have collected during Earth's formation, said lead study author Philipp Heck, the Robert A. Pritzker Associate Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. These are solid samples of stars. With so much of the odd space rock recovered, the Murchison meteorite has been extensively studied, yielding some fascinating results.

"It starts with crushing fragments of the meteorite down into a powder", said Jennika Greer, a graduate student at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the study. "Once all the pieces are separated, it's a kind of dough, and it has a pungent characteristic".

"I've never smelled rotten peanut butter", Heck told Live Science.

To work out how dilapidated the grains were, the researchers measured how prolonged they'd been uncovered to cosmic rays in house.

The exposure age data allowed researchers to measure their exposure to cosmic rays.


Presolar grains can be dated by how long they've been exposed to cosmic rays. "And the more they are exposed, the more these elements are formed".

"I compare this with putting out a bucket in a rainstorm". Now, researchers have been able to determine the age of 40 grains, most of which are between 4.6 billion and 4.9 billion years old. The grain age range has also intrigued scientists: the majority was 4.6 billion to 4.9 billion years, suggesting that an exceptional crop of new stars has formed in the Milky Way il about 7 billion years ago - the lifespan of a star is usually a few billion years.

Stardust got on the chondrite, not our Solar system was formed.

And, Heck said, the discovery of a furious starburst in microscopic grains wrapped up in a meteorite confirms that star formation ebbs and flows. Some think it is stable and immutable, while others think that there are peaks and troughs. Some of the grains of this material from a distant region of space came to Earth in the Murchison meteorite that pummeled down in Australia over 50 years ago. This is one of the main conclusions of our study.

"With this study, we directly determined the lifetimes of star dust. We hope this will be picked up and studied so that people can use this as input for models of the whole galactic life cycle", Dr.


"With this study we are just starting this journey of exploring the history of the galaxy with meteorites", Heck says. Stardust is the oldest material to reach Earth, and from it, we can learn about our parent stars, the origin of the carbon in our bodies, the origin of the oxygen we breathe. That spectrometer is the only one on the planet sensitive enough to detect the trace amounts of neon gas trapped in the stardust, he said.

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