A meteorite that landed in the Sahara Desert, last year is dated as being 4.56 billion years old, which makes the volcanic rock older than Earth, which is about 4.54 billion years old.
Named Erg Chech 002 (EC 002), after the Algerian site, where it had been discovered, the rock is a rare artifact from a protoplanet (a large body of matter in orbit around the Sun or another star and believed to be developing into a planet that was likely-forming when the solar system was a young 2 million years old.
The solar system with all its planets considered to have evolved to its current structure about 4.57 billion years ago, while the Sun formed first over 4.6 billion years ago.
The team behind the findings led-by Jean-Alix Barrat of Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France, speculates that this astronomical body would have either been destroyed or absorbed by bigger rocky planets as they formed-closer to the Sun.
The results of the meteorite study published in the journal PNAS.
The meteorite was a part-of a group that was recovered in May 2020 near Bir Ben Takoul, southern Algeria, within the Erg Chech sand sea.
The stones described as having a “coarse grained, tan and beige appearance” interspersed with crystals that are green, yellow-green and yellow-brown. They’re igneous in nature, which suggests they formed from molten rock or magma.
A rock like EC 002 is a relic from very early days of the solar system and most of the material from the time has since-become a part of other bodies that have evolved to form planets or asteroids from which we’ve plenty meteorites today.
No known asteroid, or meteorite look like EC 002, indicating how-rare the finding is and the way these rocks likely don’t exist anymore.
About the meteorite
The rock that makes-up the meteorite is of a type called andesite, which is made-up of solidified magma or lava.
These are found on Earth in subduction zones, where tectonic plates slide below one another and rock from the crust enters into the mantle of the earth.
Meteorites rarely found to be andesites.
EC 002 is classified as an achondrite, a sort of meteorite that originates from a parent body that had a differentiated crust & core like the rocky planets.
Achondrites lack ‘chondrules’, which are round bubble-like grains of partially molten droplets that form in space when smaller bits of rock merge together.
This piece of rock is believed to have come-from partly molten magma in its parent body crust and is rich in silica, while most magma is rich in iron.
It is also categorized as ungrouped, which means, although its characteristics are well-defined, they do not fall into any established groups of meteorites.
According to the researchers, their analysis shows that the rock was likely to be a part of a crust of an ancient protoplanet or early rocky planet that eventually broke-up.
The magma that EC 002 formed-out of would have been at least of 1,220°C and brought at least of 1,00,000 years to cool & solidify.
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