New data reveals early origins of solar system, life on Earth

(IANS) A new research using magnetism has provided significant data that will help inform scientists about the early origins of the solar system and why some planets such as Earth became habitable and were able to sustain conditions conducive for life, while other planets, such as Mars, did not.

In a new paper published in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment, researchers at the University of Rochester were able to use magnetism to determine, for the first time, when carbonaceous chondrite asteroids — asteroids that are rich in water and amino acids — first arrived in the inner solar system.

The research also gives scientists data that can be applied to the discovery of new exoplanets.

“There is special interest in defining this history — in reference to the huge number of exoplanet discoveries — to deduce whether events might have been similar or different in exo-solar systems,” said John Tarduno, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor at Rochester.

In order to learn more about the origin of meteorites and their parent bodies, Tarduno and the researchers studied magnetic data collected from the Allende meteorite, which fell to Earth and landed in Mexico in 1969.

The Allende meteorite is the largest carbonaceous chondrite meteorite found on Earth and contains minerals that are thought to be the first solids formed in the solar system.

It is one of the most studied meteorites and was considered for decades to be the classic example of a meteorite from a primitive asteroid parent body.

New experiments by Rochester graduate student Tim O’Brien, the first author of the paper, found that magnetic signals interpreted by prior researchers was not actually from a core as earlier thought.

Instead, the magnetism is a property of Allende’s unusual magnetic minerals.

Having solved this paradox, O’Brien was able to identify meteorites with other minerals that could faithfully record early solar system magnetisations.

Using simulations and data, the researchers determined that the parent asteroids from which carbonaceous chondrite meteorites broke off arrived in the Asteroid Belt from the outer solar system about 4,562 million years ago, within the first five million years of solar system history.

“This early motion of carbonaceous chondrite asteroids sets the stage for further scattering of water-rich bodies — potentially to Earth — later in the development of the solar system, and it may be a pattern common to exoplanet systems,” Tarduno emphasised.

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