How do scientists know that a rock is from space and not of earthly origin?

When it comes to determining whether a rock is from space or earth, there is huge scientific research taking place behind the curtains. Typically, rocks from outer space consist of compounds that are not normally found in regular rocks on the surface of the earth. A major factor that differentiates these rocks is the formation process. The rocks formed in the outer space and which land on the surface of the earth known as meteorites and asteroids are a result of when the bigger rocks either bang into each other or simply break up. These rocks normally contain substances such as Iron and metal etc. whereas the rocks found on the surface of the earth are a result of changes in climate, temperature, rain, and many other factors.

Today, rocks or meteorites can be spotted way above in the sky when they are about to smash on the surface of the earth. Scientists make use of technology that allows them to have an idea about the number of meteorites close to the planet and can even tell the estimated time as to when they will hit. Not only scientists, but people have also been a witness to meteorites falling on earth as they look like a fireball across the sky.

Meteorites happen to be rich in iron, so they will probably stick to magnets. However, the longer the meteorite stays on earth, the higher are the chances of it mixing with water, oxygen, and fertilizers, ultimately contaminating it. Since they arrive from outer space, they have the potential to carry valuable information that helps scientists and researches with their research.

As soon as a meteorite falls, it is taken into custody and moved into a lab to be studied. Scientists will study its components such as mineral schreibersite, which contains iron, nickel, and phosphorous. These components are only found in iron meteorites. Another way to find out the origin of the meteorite is by studying the Widmanstatten pattern, which highlights a geometric structure, then again unique to iron meteorites.

Back in 2013, there was something that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. It was a 570-kilogram meteorite, which is believed to have the largest extraterrestrial impact on the earth. The interesting thing about the meteorite was that it was made of chondrite, which contains chondrules, round, and small particles of silicate material. Nobody knows the origin of chondrules but is thought to have given birth to the solar system. Furthermore, nearly 86% of meteorites are chondrites. Chondrite meteorites are mostly made from rock and arrive from the asteroid belt, which can prove that meteorites usually come from space. Therefore, based on elements and components found in meteorites, scientists can determine that a particular rock or meteorite is from outer space and not from the earth.

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Meteorites: A Journey through Space and Time Hardcover
On the Trail of Stardust

 

Meteorites: A Journey through Space and Time by Alex Bevan

Alex Bevan, in his book, tries to explain why researchers want to study meteorites, perhaps it is because they consist of geochemical clues about the origin of the solar system. The book delivers central facts regarding radioactive dating that helps the scientists yield formation ages of meteorites as well their time in space and on the ground. Considering the crystals and minerals constituting a meteorite, one can tell a lot about the pressure and temperature during its creation. Comprehensive detail across 256 pages, is what makes this book an interesting meteorite study.

On the Trail of Stardust: The Guide to Finding Micrometeorites: Tools, Techniques, and Identification by Jon Larsen

More experience than a book, On the Trail of Stardust, is Jon Larsen’s personal experience of chasing micrometeorites. The book has categorized different types of micrometeorites, which sufficiently helps in determining whether a particular micrometeorite is from space or earth. Micrometeorites from outer space are cosmic spherules that are stone and/or solidified metal droplets. This alone is an admissible proof of a meteorite belonging to outer space.