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Scientists Uncover Oddly Composed Micrometeorite

April 8, 2009

Scientists are puzzled by the composition of a mysterious space rock discovered in Antarctica.

Matthieu Gounelle from the Laboratory of Mineralogy and Cosmochemistry at the French Natural History Museum, is leading the research on the strange micrometeorite known as MM04.

Astrochemists are puzzled by the composition of MM04. The tiny rock ““ only 150 microns across ““ is made up of a “unique” chemical composition, Gounelle said.

MM04 was a basaltic achondritic micrometeorite, Dr Caroline Smith, curator of meteorites at the Natural History Museum, London, told BBC News.

This is important because achondritic meteorites were created when planets in the solar system were being formed. This suggests that the composition of chemicals found in MM04 could reveal more about how the planets came into being.

“It is fascinating as to how much information can be retrieved about the processes involved in planetary formation from tiny fragments of extra-terrestrial material that routinely arrive on Earth anonymously,” said Dr Mahesh Anand, an astrochemist from the department of Earth & Environmental Sciences at the Open University.

“We have basaltic meteorites that are thought to come from an asteroid called 4 Vesta and we also have basaltic meteorites from the Moon and Mars,” Dr Smith told the BBC.

“But [MM04's] chemistry does not match any of those places. It has to be from somewhere else.”

“Micrometeorites are often seen as the ‘poor man’s space probe’. They land on Earth fortuitously and we do not have to spend millions of dollars or euros on a robotic mission to get them.”

Gounelle’s study of MM04 is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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