An Ultra-Rare Crystal Is Found in a Meteorite, Revealing a Bizarre Form of Matter


IN BRIEF
  • Just a few micrometers in diameter, this quasicrystal is the third to be found in this particular meteorite, but it differs from the other two in both structure and chemical composition.
  • While many applications have been discovered for synthetic quasicrystals, the rarity of naturally occurring ones has made them difficult to study.

ULTRA-RARE SPECIMEN

A team led by Luca Bindi, a geologist from the University of Florence, has found an ultra-rare quasicrystal just a few micrometres wide in a meteorite that landed in Russia five years ago. The discovery has been detailed in Scientific Reports.

Two other quasicrystals have already been discovered in this particular meteorite, but the latest is different from its predecessors in both structure and chemical composition. This new quasicrystal is composed of aluminum, copper, and iron atoms structured in an arrangement very similar to the pentagon-based pattern of a soccer ball, a first of its kind in nature.

“What is encouraging is that we have already found three different types of quasicrystals in the same meteorite, and this new one has a chemical composition that has never been seen for a quasicrystal,” says Paul Steinhardt, a team member from Princeton, in an interview with Motherboard. “That suggests there is more to be found, perhaps more quasicrystals that we did not know were possible before.”

WHAT IS A QUASICRYSTAL?

At the time of their discovery in the 1980s, quasicrystals defied what we thought we knew about crystallography.

Regular crystals such as diamonds and snowflakes are made up of atoms in almost-perfect symmetry, while polycrystals such as metals and ice have more random structures that closely resemble amorphous solids like glass and most plastics. Quasicrystals, however, have an ordered yet never repeating arrangement of atoms. Their unique atomic structures fuse the symmetrical properties of regular crystals with the chaos of amorphous solids.

Quasicrystals can easily be artificially synthesized in labs, and in the three decades since their discovery, scientists have found many useful applications for them, incorporating quasicrystals into LEDs, frying pans, and other objects. Their rarity in nature, however, makes the study of organic quasicrystals still largely uncharted territory, so this new discovery could tell us a lot about this strange form of matter.

Meteorite Chemicals May Have Started Life on Earth.


The molecules that kick-started life on primordial Earth could have been made in space and delivered by meteorites, according to researchers in Italy. The group synthesised sugars, amino acids and nucleobases with nothing more than formamide, meteorite material and the power of a simulated solar wind, replicating a process they believe cooked up a prebiotic soup long before life existed on Earth.

Formamide is a simple organic compound first suggested as a starting material for the formation of prebiotic biomolecules back in 2001. The chemical has been detected in galactic centres and stellar nurseries, as well as comets and satellites. These latest experiments show that formamide, irradiated by the solar wind—simulated here by a proton beam—and in the presence of powdered meteorites, gave rise to amino acids, carboxylic acids, sugars and nucleosides—the building blocks of DNA and RNA.

‘Meteorites catalysed these transformations and the best catalyst was the chondrites, the oldest meteorites in space,’ says author Raffaele Saladino at the Tuscia University in Italy. ‘They would be very efficient catalysts during the flight in space and even as they fall down to the surface of the Earth or a similar planet.’

The authors suggest that bombardment of formamide with highly energetic protons could produce radical species that could react to yield complex and biologically relevant organic compounds. They give the example of the synthesis of purine nucleobases by multi-step addition of cyanide radicals to formamide, as previously predicted by another team. Saladino’s team has detected key intermediates in this purine nucleobase synthesis pathway in its samples.

Previous research hypothesised such reactions occurring on Earth, powered by meteorite bombardment, but this work raises the prospect of reactions in space facilitating life on Earth or other planets. This scenario suggests that if life formed on other planets it might share similarities with that on Earth.

Lucy Ziurys, an astrochemist at the University of Arizona, US, previously estimated that in interstellar space 10–10 molecules of formamide exist for every hydrogen molecule, making it fairly abundant by astronomical standards. ‘We did some back-of-an-envelop calculations and millimolar quantities could be delivered to a planet surface on carbonaceous chondrites,’ she says. With greater frequency of bombardment, as hypothesised for Earth around 3.5 billion years ago, amounts would go up.

‘There is also thought amongst the astrobiology community that the Earth lost all its early carbon in the form of an atmosphere which escaped—a methane or carbon dioxide atmosphere—so that all the carbon we find on Earth today was brought back by bombardment, so exogenous delivery, and there is a hell of a lot of carbon on Earth,’ she adds. ‘We know from studies of carbonaceous chondrites that it came back in many different forms and why not formamide?’

Saladino says he now plans to investigate if small molecules of RNA can be created via the same route by adding a phosphate mineral to provide the material to form the nucleic acid’s backbone.

This bruise is the result of the only confirmed meteorite strike on a human ever


Back in 1954, Ann Hodges became the only confirmed person in history to be hit by a meteorite.

tumblr ni0s64PNnM1sdi1nlo1 1280 1

On a crisp November afternoon in the small town of Sylacauga, Alabama, in 1954, Ann Hodges was napping on the couch when a softball-sized chunk of rock crashed through the ceiling, bounced off her radio and hit her in the thigh.

Other than the roughly 30-cm bruise above her hip that you can see being examined by doctor Moody Jacobs above, Ann was relatively uninjured.
But the attention that followed was so intense that she ended up being admitted to hospital. Not only had she potentially been hit by a meteorite, but she was also struck during a period of Cold War hysteria – and in her small town, this sent neighbours flocking to her house, convinced the object had been sent by the Soviet Union.

Earlier that day, people in Sylacauga had seen a “bright reddish light like a Roman candle trailing smoke” according to an Alabama Museum of Natural History publication. Others had seen a fireball “like a gigantic welding arc”. But the cause was unclear.

A government geologist was sent in to inspect the object and eventually determined that it was a meteorite, and not a communist weapon. But that was even more rare, and Ann became the only cofirmed person in human history to have been struck by a meteorite.

As Michael Reynolds, an astronomer from Florida State College, told Justin Nobel for National Geographic, being hit by a meteorite is an incredibly unlikely event.

“Think of how many people have lived throughout human history,” Reynolds told Nobel. “You have a better chance of getting hit by a tornado and a bolt of lightning and a hurricane all at the same time.”

But unfortunately, the meteorite continued to cause drama. Although the government agreed to give it back to Ann and her husband Eugene, the couple were renters, and so their landlord sued them for custody of the space rock.

After much public fighting, Eugene and Ann did end up with the meteorite, and in 1956 donated it to the natural history museum, where it’s still on display.

But the frenzy had taken its toll, and Nobel reports that Ann later suffered a nervous breakdown and died at the age of 52 of kidney failure.

Meteorite may solve Martian mystery


A meteorite reveals clues to how Mars lost its thick, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere and became a cold, rocky desert, researchers say.

They say the Lafayette meteorite shows signs of carbonation – where minerals absorb CO2 in a reaction with water.

Mars lost its protective blanket about 4 billion years ago, perhaps because of the loss of its magnetic field, space impacts, or chemical processes.

Carbonation may be the key factor, they write in Nature Communications.

Carbonation could be the main force that turned Mars to stone”

Dr Tim Tomkinson Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre

The process occurs naturally on Earth – and has been proposed as a technique for mitigating climate change, by capturing CO2 from the atmosphere.

The 4.5cm Lafayette meteorite was discovered in Indiana, US in 1931, having plummeted to Earth about 3,000 years ago.

It formed in the Red Planet‘s crust about 1.3 billion years ago, and was ejected from the surface by a massive impact.

A team from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) performed microscopic analysis on a section of the rock – borrowed from the Natural History Museum in London.

A Scotland-based team of researchers study a meteorite from Mars in the hope of learning how we can deal with climate change here on Earth

They found that silicate minerals, such as olivine and feldspar, had interacted with CO2-rich liquid water to form siderite crystals.

The team says their discovery suggests liquid water was present on Mars more recently than some had thought.

They also say it represents the first direct evidence for carbonation on the Red Planet – and ties in with the discovery of carbonates by Nasa’s Curiosity Mars rover.

“Carbonation could be the main force that turned Mars to stone,” said lead author Dr Tim Tomkinson, of SUERC.

“We can’t say for certain it’s the dominant cause – the loss of Mars’ magnetic field may also have led to the stripping of its atmosphere by the solar wind. And CO2 is also frozen in the poles of Mars.

“But carbonates do seem to be very abundant on the Martian surface.”

False colour microscopic image of Lafayette meteorite showing evidence of carbonation, with siderite (orange) replacing olivine (blue).
Microscopic image shows evidence of carbonation with siderite (orange) replacing olivine (blue)

The loss of its carbon dioxide cloak is likely to have caused Mars to cool. So understanding how the CO2 was removed “could provide vital clues to how we can limit the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere and so reduce climate change” said Dr Tomkinson.

Mineral carbonation is widespread on Earth. For example, in Oman’s Samail mountains, weathering of peridotite rocks has been estimated to bind more than 10,000 tons of CO2 per year.

Speeding up this natural process – by fracking rocks and pumping in purified CO2 – has been proposed as a technique for carbon capture and storage.

“From our analysis of the meteorite, it seems that carbonation occurs in certain orientations – we see amazing saw-tooth edges, all lining up,” Dr Tomkinson told BBC News.

“It could be for example that if you wanted to frack rocks and introduce CO2 you should do it from a certain angle.”

Dr Caroline Smith, curator of meteorites at the Natural History Museum, said: “These findings show just how valuable meteorites from collections like those we have here really are.

“There is so much important and useful scientific information locked away in these rare rocks.

“Our study shows that as we learn more about our planetary next door neighbour, we are seeing more and more similarities with geological processes on Earth.”

Images of Lafayette meteorite section
Images of a Lafayette meteorite section, highlighting different minerals

Huge half-ton chunk of Russian meteorite lifted from lakebed.


The largest-discovered fragment of a Russian meteorite, weighing around 570 kilograms, has been lifted from the bed of Lake Chebarkul in the Urals.

The huge meteorite chunk split into three pieces when scientists tried to weigh it. The precise weight could not be established because the heavy object broke the scales. 

The preliminary examination… shows that this is really a fraction of the Chelyabinsk meteorite. It’s got thick burn-off, the rust is clearly seen and it’s got a big number of indents. This chunk is most probably one of the top ten biggest meteorite fragments ever found,” said Sergey Zamozdra, associate professor of Chelyabinsk State University, as cited by Interfax news agency. 

Подъем метеорита из озера Чебаркуль

He explained that it was important to establish the weight of the fragment in order to learn more about the qualities of the whole of the meteorite.

The lifted chunk was taken to the regional natural history museum. The plan is to have a small sample of it X-rayed to determine what minerals it consists of. 

Several earlier attempts to raise this massive chunk of meteorite, found by divers at the beginning of September, failed.

The divers’ mission was hampered by a number of factors. The meteorite fragment lay 20 meters under water, buried under a thick layer of mud.

Estimates concerning the layer of sediments covering the chunk were more optimistic than what the divers actually had to deal with. It took them 10 days to pump the mud away from the rock. 

The divers had to do their job in conditions of zero visibility, due to the extremely muddied waters of the lake. Storms further contributed to delays in lifting the celestial body. 

The largest lifted chunk of meteorite so far weighed 11 kilograms. Scientists on Wednesday confirmed its extraterrestrial nature. 

A huge meteorite, weighing around 11,000 tons, exploded over the Chelyabinsk region in Russia on February 15. It injured more than 1,600 people, and inflicted plenty of damage – around a billion rubles ($31 million) worth and also caused mass media frenzy.

RIA Novosti / Aleksandr Kondratuk

Overall 12 alleged pieces of meteorite have so far been raised from the lakebed.  Five of them were confirmed as meteorite fragments. 

 

Argentina meteor: 130,000km per hour meteor turns night to day as it enters atmosphere.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2313055/Argentina-meteor-130-000km-hour-meteor-turns-night-day-enters-atmosphere.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Astrobiologists confirming extraterrestrial life.


http://csglobe.com/astrobiologists-discover-fossils-in-meteorite-fragments-confirming-extraterrestrial-life/

Russian scientists find Meteorite fragments.


http://m.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/sci-tech/meteorite-rush-begins-as-russian-scientists-find-fragments-20130219-2eo51.html

A 14 years old guy name Gerrit Blank survived a direct hit by a meteorite as it moved to Earth at more than 30,000 mph.. that sound scary, isn’t it?


As explained by The Telegraph reports. Gerrit Blank was on his way to school and he saw a “ball of light” heading straight towards him from the sky.it was a red hot, pea-sized piece of rock then hit his hand before bouncing off and causing a foot wide crater in the ground

The teenager survived the strike, the chances of which are just 1 in a million – but with a nasty three-inch long scar on his hand.

“At first I just saw a large ball of light, and then I suddenly felt a pain in my hand.Then a split second after that there was an enormous bang like a crash of thunder.The noise that came after the flash of light was so loud that my ears were ringing for hours afterwards.When it hit me it knocked me flying and then was still going fast enough to bury itself into the road,” he explained.I am really keen on science and my teachers discovered that the fragment is really magnetic,” said Gerrit.

Scientists researched on that pea-sized meteorite which crashed to Earth in Essen, Germany and admitted that i had fallen from the space. Ansgar Kortem, director of Germany’s Walter Hohmann Observatory, said: “It’s a real meteorite, therefore it is very valuable to collectors and scientists.”

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