For decades, scientists have been looking for clues on how our solar system was born. None of the existing theories of solar system formation are conclusive. But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have made a new revelation. They have come across an ancient meteorite formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Magnetic fields preserved within the meteorite offer new insights into the formation of the Sun, planets, and the entire solar system.
Chondrites help explain the formation of the solar system
The 1.5-pound meteorite, called Semarkona, landed in northern India way back in 1940. Measurement of magnetic fields point to shock waves traveling through the dusty gas clouds around the newly-born Sun as a crucial factor in solar system formation. Findings of the study appeared in Nov.13 issue of the journal Science. Magnetic fields had pushed a vast amount of dusty gas into the Sun. The remaining dust grains and gas were thrown out that would crash between each other. It eventually led to the formation of planets.
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According to lead author Roger Fu, the most useful pieces of debris are chondrites, the most ancient and least altered types of meteorites. Chondrites are pieces of asteroids that were broken off by collisions. They consist mainly of chondrules, the small stony grains that measure less than a millimeter in diameter. Ever since they were formed, chondrites have remained almost unchanged.
Very strong magnetic field
Researchers focused mainly on magnetic fields captured by the olivine grains containing iron-bearing materials. These grains had a magnetic field of 54 microtesla, similar to the Earth’s magnetic field, which ranges between 24 and 65 microtesla. Fu said that the magnetic field was strong enough to affect the motion of a huge amount of gas at a large scale, in a significant way.
It’s not the first time researchers have looked at meteorites for magnetic field samples. Scientists did it in 1960s, but couldn’t find something concrete.