Every so often, we hear of meteors and meteorites heading towards Earth. Despite their novelty, these space rocks are actually quite commonplace, given that they almost always come from the asteroid belt lying between Mars and Jupiter. For the first time, however, researchers have discovered the remnants of a meteorite that seems to have come from the outer edges of our solar system.
Referred to as the Tagish Lake meteorite, the celestial stone originally arrived at our planet back in 2000, when it dropped right into the lake in the northwestern part of British Columbia. Since then, its unique appearance and unidentified composition have left scientists completely baffled. According to a new study, recently published in the Astronomical Journal, the piece of rock likely belongs to the Kuiper Belt.
Located beyond Neptune in the outer reaches of our solar system, the Kuiper Belt is believed to house numerous small celestial bodies, including asteroids and comets. These cosmic objects, researchers believe, are made almost entirely out of ice. The region is currently being explored by a number of space probes, such as NASA’s New Horizons which successfully reached Pluto in the summer of 2015. The craft is also scheduled to fly past 2014 MU69, another of Kuiper Belt’s objects.
As explained by Bill Bottke, an astronomer at Colorado’s Southwest Research Institute and one of the paper’s authors, the Tagish Lake meteorite may have been created when our solar system was still very young. At the time, the gravitational forces of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune were not yet at equilibrium, causing several pieces of rocks to break off from the surrounding comets. These eventually made their way towards Earth.
According to the team of scientists, the space rock is “likely a fragment from a D-type asteroid implanted into the inner main [asteroid] belt”. According to them, D-type refers to a group of asteroids whose compositions are starkly different from those found in the asteroid belt. Instead, these objects bear greater resemblance with the celestial bodies present around the four gas giants of our solar system.
Despite the fascinating claims made by the team, however, the research has met with skepticism from other scientists, including Pierre Vernazza of Marseille Observatory in France. He added:
For now, we don’t have the observations to establish that it is possible.
Via: New Scientist