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In 2013, researchers announced that a pebble found in south-west Egypt, was definitely not from Earth. By 2015, other research teams had announced that the 'Hypatia' stone was not part of any known types of meteorite or comet, based on noble gas and nuclear probe analyses.
(The stone was named Hypatia after Hypatia of Alexandria, the first Western woman mathematician and astronomer).
Pebble - Earth - Origin - Minerals - Clues
However, if the pebble was not from Earth, what was its origin and could the minerals in it provide clues on where it came from? Micro-mineral analyses of the pebble by the original research team at the University of Johannesburg have now provided unsettling answers that spiral away from conventional views of the material our solar system was formed from.
The internal structure of the Hypatia pebble is somewhat like a fruitcake that has fallen off a shelf into some flour and cracked on impact, says Prof Jan Kramers, lead researcher of the study published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta on 28 Dec 2017.
Dough - Fruit - Cake - Bulk - Hypatia
"We can think of the badly mixed dough of a fruit cake representing the bulk of the Hypatia pebble, what we called two mixed 'matrices' in geology terms. The glace cherries and nuts in the cake represent the mineral grains found in Hypatia 'inclusions'. And the flour dusting the cracks of the fallen cake represent the 'secondary materials' we found in the fractures in Hypatia, which are from Earth," he says.
The original extraterrestrial rock that fell to Earth must have been at least several meters in diameter, but disintegrated into small fragments of which the Hypatia stone is one.
Straight - Hypatia - Mineral - Matrix - Dough
Straight away, the Hypatia mineral matrix (represented by fruitcake dough), looks nothing like that of any known meteorites, the rocks that fall from space onto Earth every now and then.
"If it were possible to grind up the entire planet Earth...
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