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Rock Found in Field is 4.6 Billion Years Old

The fist-sized lump of rock was found in Gloucestershire, in south west England, in March. It turns out that it's really rather special. It could contain vital information about the formation of the Solar System - and the origins of life itself.

It's got scientists wildly excited because it did not form here on Earth, but hails from somewhere out past the orbit of Mars. Kicked out by gravitational interactions or a collision between asteroids, the fragment tumbled across the vastness of space to end up punching through our atmosphere to land on Earth as a meteorite.

What has come to be known as the Winchcombe meteorite may, however, be no ordinary meteorite. Scientists are now conducting analyses to determine its composition, in the hopes of learning more about where it came from, and how it formed, reports ScienceAlert.

"The internal structure is fragile and loosely bound, porous with fissures and cracks," said microscopist Shaun Fowler of Loughborough University in the UK. "It doesn't appear to have undergone thermal metamorphism, which means it's been sitting out there, past Mars, untouched, since before any of the planets were created, meaning we have the rare opportunity to examine a piece of our primordial past."

The small fragment, part of the same meteorite that fell in Winchcombe in March, is around 4.6 billion years old – that's about the same age as the Solar System. That means it formed from the same cloud of dust and gas that birthed the Sun and the planets.


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