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A meteorite that hit Australia 51 years ago brought to Earth the oldest matter we have ever found, writes Reuters.
Inside the meteorite, which fell near the town of Murchison in 1969, 40 tiny particles of cosmic dust, which are 7 billion years old, have been discovered.
They precede significantly our solar system, which is thought to have begun to form 4.6 to 4.9 billion years ago.
Scientists extract information from meteorites like this because cosmic dust works as a time capsule and gives us an opportunity to understand more about the formation of the Milky Way galaxy, which we are in.
Space dust particles in the meteorite are extremely small – between 2 and 30 micrometers. One micrometer is one thousandth of a millimeter, BGNES recalls.
The cosmic dust is formed by material ejected from the stars and carried in space by the stellar wind. During the formation of the solar system, such cosmic dust was included in the matter of planets and stars, but remained unchanged only in meteorites and comets.
Scientists have a method for dating particles of cosmic dust. As they fly through space, they are bombarded by high-energy particles called cosmic rays. They break the atoms in the cosmic dust into particles of chemical elements such as carbon and helium.
These elements accumulate over time at a constant rate. The longer the cosmic ray exposure, the greater the accumulation. Counting the elements in specialized laboratories allows determining the age of the cosmic dust.
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