A tiny pebble has sparked intrigue within the scientific community after researchers discovered that it’s from another world. Researchers have been studying the extraterrestrial stone since at least 2013. They named it Hypatia in honor of Hypatia of Alexandria, the first female astronomer and mathematician from the West.
“Unsettling answers” about the extraterrestrial stone
In an article for Science X, researchers from the University of Johannesburg detailed the findings from research on the Hypatia stone since it was found in southwestern Egypt. Scientists revealed in 2013 that it was definitely of alien origin, and by 2015, additional research teams revealed that the extraterrestrial stone wasn’t even from any of the comets or meteorites they were aware of, based on their “noble gas and nuclear probe analyses,” the UJ research team wrote.
Their next scientific investigation of the extraterrestrial stone focused on its origin and whether the minerals it contained might be able to point them in that direction. UJ researchers analyzed the microminerals in the pebble and now report that their findings have “provided unsettling answers that spiral away from conventional views of the material our solar system was formed from.”
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The Hypatia stone is like a fruitcake
In a study published on Dec. 28 in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, UJ researchers describe the Hypatia stone’s internal structure as “somewhat like a fruitcake that has fallen off a shelf into some flour and cracked on impact.”
Professor Jan Kramers explained that most of the extraterrestrial stone is made up of a substance similar to “the badly mixed dough of a fruit cake,” also known in geology terms as a pair of mixed “matrices.” He describes the mineral grains found in the Hypatia stone as “the glace cherries and nuts” and the “secondary materials” found in the cracks of the pebble as the “flour dusting the cracks of the fallen cake.”
UJ researchers believe that the extraterrestrial stone must have originally been several meters across at least, but over time, it broke apart into much smaller pieces, and the Hypatia pebble is just one of them.
A “weird matrix”
Researchers said that right from the very beginning, it was clear that the mineral matrix of the stone doesn’t look anything like the matrix of any meteorites they’re aware of. Further, Kramers explained that the pebble contains a large concentration of certain carbon compounds found in interstellar dust, which he says were in existence before our solar system was formed. Such dust can also be found in meteorites or comets that haven’t been “heated up for a prolonged period in their history,” he added.
Further, most of the carbon compounds found in the extraterrestrial stone’s matrix have been changed into diamonds that are less than one micrometer in size. Scientists believe diamonds that size were formed during an impact with the surface or atmosphere of Earth. These tiny diamonds are believed to have preserved the Hypatia pebble ever since it landed on Earth by making it able to resist damage from the elements.
Surprising chemicals found in the extraterrestrial stone
Researcher Georgy Belyanin also found several surprising chemical elements upon analyzing the mineral grains in the stone. For example, he found the pure metallic form of aluminum, which is unique because on Earth and in the rest of our solar system, the metal isn’t found in nugget form like gold is.
He also found grains of silicon carbide and silver iodine phosphide in unusual forms, along with grains of a compound which is made up mostly of phosphorus and nickel, mixed with a minute amount of iron. This composition is entirely unique, as researchers have never before seen it, either in any meteorites or on Earth.
Based on these findings, UJ researchers believe that the extraterrestrial stone is made of material that existed before Earth, our sun or our solar system’s other planets were formed. Scientists currently believe that the planets in our solar system were formed from a massive interstellar cloud made of dust—the same kind of dust throughout.
However, the unique composition of the Hypatia stone challenges this belief because it contains unique mineral content. It means that at the very least, half of the theory about our solar system being formed from a cloud of interstellar dust may not be true because the dust wasn’t the same throughout the cloud.