Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Source Of Most Common Meteorites Discovered

Date:
July 14, 2008
Source:
Astronomy & Astrophysics
Summary:
When observing with the GEMINI telescopes, two astronomers discovered for the first time asteroids that are similar to "ordinary chondrites" -- the most common meteorites found on Earth. Until now, astronomers have failed to identify their asteroidal sources because of the various geologic processes that occur after the meteorites are ejected from their asteroidal parent body.

Right: Comparison of the spectrum of asteroid (1270) Datura with the spectrum of the Fayetteville meteorite. Left: Pictures of the Fayetteville meteorite.
Credit: Copyright Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, University of Arkansas

When observing with the GEMINI telescopes, two astronomers from Brazil and the United States discovered for the first time asteroids that are similar to “ordinary chondrites”, the most common meteorites found on Earth. Until now, astronomers have failed to identify their asteroidal sources because of the various geologic processes that occur after the meteorites are ejected from their asteroidal parent body.

Astronomy & Astrophysics is publishing the first discovery by T. Mothé-Diniz (Brazil) and D. Nesvorný (USA) of asteroids with a spectrum similar to that of ordinary chondrites, the meteoritic material that most resembles the composition of our Sun. Most of the meteorites that we collect on Earth come from the main belt of asteroids located between Mars and Jupiter [1]. They were ejected from their asteroidal “parent body” after a collision, were injected into a new orbit, and they finally felt onto the Earth. Meteorites are a major tool for knowing the history of the solar system because their composition is a record of past geologic processes that occurred while they were still incorporated in the parent asteroid.

One fundamental difficulty is that we do not know exactly where the majority of meteorite specimens come from within the asteroidal main belt. For many years, astronomers failed to discover the parent body of the most common meteorites, the ordinary chondrites that represent 75% of all the collected meteorites.

To find the source asteroid of a meteorite, astronomers must compare the spectra of the meteorite specimen to those of asteroids. This is a difficult task because meteorites and their parent bodies underwent different processes after the meteorite was ejected. In particular, asteroidal surfaces are known to be altered by a process called “space weathering”, which is probably caused by micrometeorite and solar wind action that progressively transforms the spectra of asteroidal surfaces. Hence, the spectral properties of asteroids become different from those of their associated meteorites, making the identification of asteroidal parent body more difficult.

Collisions are the main process to affect asteroids. As a consequence of a strong impact, an asteroid can be broken up, its fragments following the same orbit as the primary asteroid. These fragments constitute what astronomers call “asteroid families”. Until recently, most of the known asteroid families have been very old (they were formed 100 million to billions of years ago). Indeed, younger families are more difficult to detect because asteroids are closer to each other [2].

In 2006, four new, extremely young asteroid families were identified, with an age ranging from 50000 to 600000 years. These fragments should be less affected than older families by space weathering after the initial breakup. Mothé-Diniz and Nesvorný then observed these asteroids, using the GEMINI telescopes (one located in Hawaii, the other in Chile), and obtained visible spectra. They compared the asteroids spectra to the one of an ordinary chondrite (the Fayetteville meteorite [3]) and found good agreement.

This discovery is the first observational match between the most common meteorites and asteroids in the main belt. It also confirms the role of space weathering in altering asteroid surfaces. Identifying the asteroidal parent body of a meteorite is a unique tool when studying the history of our solar system because one can infer both the time of geological events (from the meteorite that can be analyzed through datation techniques) and their location in the solar system (from the location of the parent asteroid).

  1. There are only a few exceptions, including the example of the famous meteorites coming from Mars.
  2. After the primary asteroid is disrupted, the fragments move away from each other. The older the collision, the greater the distance between fragments.
  3. Meteorites are named for the place they were collected. The Fayetteville meteorite fell near Fayetteville, Arkansas, on December 26, 1934.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Astronomy & Astrophysics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mothé-Diniz et al. Visible spectroscopy of extremely young asteroid families. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 2008; 486 (2): L9 DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:200809934

Cite This Page:

Astronomy & Astrophysics. "Source Of Most Common Meteorites Discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080710103903.htm>.
Astronomy & Astrophysics. (2008, July 14). Source Of Most Common Meteorites Discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080710103903.htm
Astronomy & Astrophysics. "Source Of Most Common Meteorites Discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080710103903.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) — The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) — Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) — Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins