A rare meteorite, which fell in the UK earlier this year, could hold the secrets to life on Earth and research suggests that the space rock dates back to the beginning of the Solar System, 4.5 billion years ago.
It is called the Winchcombe meteorite, after the Gloucestershire town where it landed. It is an extremely rare type of meteorite called a carbonaceous chondrite which is rich in water and organic matter. This is because it has retained its chemistry all the way from the formation of the solar system.
It has also been revealed to be a member of the CM (“Mighei-like”) group of carbonaceous chondrites that have now been formally approved by the Meteoritical Society. All study of the new meteorite has been made possible by Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) funding.
“Winchcombe is the first meteorite fall to be recovered in the UK for 30 years and the first ever carbonaceous chondrite to be recovered in our country. STFC’s funding is aiding us with this unique opportunity to discover the origins of water and life on Earth. Through the funding, we have been able to invest in state-of-the-art equipment that has contributed to our analysis and research into the Winchcombe meteorite,” said in a statement Dr Ashley King, a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum.
How our Solar System formed
Since its discovery using images and video footage from the UK Fireball Alliance (UKFAll), UK scientists have been studying Winchcombe to try to understand more about how our Solar System formed.
“The teams preliminary analyses confirm that Winchcombe contains a wide range of organic material! Studying the meteorite only weeks after the fall, before any significant terrestrial contamination, means that we really are peering back in time at the ingredients present at the birth of the solar system, and learning about how they came together to make planets like the Earth,” Dr Queenie Chan from Royal Holloway, University of London concluded.
If you want to see this unique and rare piece of history, a piece of the beautiful Winchcombe meteorite is now on public display at London’s Natural History Museum.