The source of one of the rarest meteorites on Earth has been identified by UK scientists.
The Ivuna meteorite was found in Tanzania in December 1938. It was later split into a number of samples now housed at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London.
After comparing it with samples from an asteroid known as Ryugu, experts believe the Ivuna rock may have originated from the edge of Solar System.
The scientific discovery, published in the journal Science Advances, could potentially unlock mysteries about the early history of the Solar System and how life began on Earth, the NHM said.
A senior research lead at the museum and co-author on the paper, Professor Sara Russell, said: “It is a really exciting discovery for me because it shows that meteorites in our museum, and in collections around the world, might actually sample most of the solid Solar System, from the innermost rocky part to its furthest outer reaches.”
“We can use them to learn more about our origins and about all our companion planets.”
The Ivuna is one of the extremely rare meteorites known as CI chondrites.
These meteorites contain elements that were present at the formation of the Solar System over four billion years ago, such as iron and carbon.
In addition, these type of meteorites are also known to contain water – the most essential ingredient for life.
For the experiment, the scientists examined samples from Ryugu, which were brought to Earth in 2020 by a Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2.
Ryugu is an asteroid that has an orbit of the sun that is not far from the Earth.
It is believed to have been born in the outer Solar System more than four billion years ago but broke away from a larger body before migrating towards Earth.
The findings suggest that both Ryugu and the CI chondrites originate from the same region of space – the outskirts of the Solar System – and may even share the same parent body, the researchers said.
“By comparing the forms of iron in both the asteroids and meteorites, we learnt that Ryugu is a remarkably close match to CI chondrites,” Professor Russell said.
It is thought possible that water and organic matter may have been first brought to Earth by meteorites from this region.