Hypatia stone fragments. Image Credit: Dr Mario di Martino, INAF Osservatorio Astrofysico di Torino
The mysterious space rock contains micro-mineral compounds found nowhere else in the solar system.
Discovered in 1996 in south-west Egypt, the Hypatia stone is an undoubtedly unique specimen.
Its origin has remained a topic of debate for years, with scientists confirming that it has not come from any known comet or meteorite and that it certainly did not originate on our own planet.
Now a team of researchers from the University of Johannesburg have discovered minerals that seem to predate even the Sun, as well as a perplexing lack of silicate matter within the stone's carbonaceous matrix, setting it apart from any other interplanetary matter that has fallen to Earth.
"The matrix contains a high amount of very specific carbon compounds, called polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH, a major component of interstellar dust, which existed even before our solar system was formed," said lead researcher Jan Kramers.
The stone has also been found to contain aluminium in its pure metallic form - something that is barely ever found within our solar system. Unexpected forms of silicon carbide and silver iodine phosphide were also found, as well as a compound containing phosphorus and nickel but no iron.
It challenges just about everything we know of planetary formation.
"When Hypatia was first found to be extraterrestrial, it was a sensation, but these latest results are opening up even bigger questions about its origins," said Dr Marco Andreoli.
Source: Science Daily | Comments (7)