Ancient meteorites 4.6 billion years ago introduced you to the early solar system

In a new study, Australian scientists analysed an ancient meteorite from about 4.6 billion years old and found that aluminum-26, a radioactive isotope, present when the meteorite formed, was unevenly distributed in the solar system. The discovery advances understanding of the early solar system and may improve the accuracy of determining the age of very old meteorites. The study was recently published in Nature Communications.

In 2020, scientists discovered the meteorite in the Sahara Desert in Algeria, naming it Erg Chech 002 based on where it was found. Combined with previously published data, scientists believe that this is a chondrite meteorite and the oldest known type of stony meteorite.

Aluminum-26 was the main heat source for early planet melting, and whether the element was evenly distributed throughout the early solar system is important for determining the age of meteorites and understanding the early solar system, but opinions on this issue are divided. This ancient meteorite provides an opportunity to further explore the initial distribution of aluminum-26 in the early solar system.

Evgenii Krestianinov of the Australian National University’s Institute of Earth Sciences and colleagues analyzed the meteorite and determined that its lead isotopic age was about 4.566 billion years old. They combined this discovery with existing data on the meteorite and compared it with other extremely ancient meteorites from molten crystals. Studies have shown that aluminum-26 is unevenly distributed in early solar system nebulae and may be related to the late deposition of stellar material and newly synthesized radionuclides.

The researchers believe that meteorite dating should be done with caution, considering their uneven distribution, they use a universal method to date with short-lived isotopes to improve the accuracy and reliability of determining the age of meteorite and planetary material.


The Erg Chech 002 sample, approximately 20 mm long, is embedded with a large pyroxene crystal in a matrix consisting of plagioclase feldspar (white) and two pyroxene (dark green and brown). Image courtesy of Yuri Amelin

(Source: China Science News, Jinnan)

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