Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tiny magnetic fields in ancient meteorite unlock ‘astounding’ secrets about Solar System’s origin

Scientists have uncovered “astounding” new information about magnetic fields that could help them unlock secrets to how the eartly solar system evolve

Researchers studied magnetic fields trapped inside primitive meteorites, which provided evidence of “shock waves” that traveled through the dusty gas cloud around the early sun that was key to our solar system’s formation, according to Astronomy Magazine.
The solar system is 4.5 billion years old, and its messy formation has left a lot of material around for scientists to derive clues about how it developed. Chondrites, an ancient type of meteorite, are one of the best ways for scientists to study the early solar system as they are mainly unaltered since the solar system’s birth.
Steve Desch of Arizona State University said the results were “astounding and unprecedented

He added that not only were scientists able to measure tiny magnetic fields thousands of times weaker than anything a compass could detect, they have been able to map out the magnetic fields’ variation “millimeter by millimeter,” as recorded by the meteorite

Chondrites are pieces of asteroids that broke off after collisions that have happened over billions of years. They are mostly made up on stony grains called chondrules that are only a millimeter in diameter
Chondrules formed when the solar nebula heating rock beyond the melting point for hours or even days, and dustballs that got caught up in such events turned the molten rock into chondrules once they cooled and crystallized

Chondrules have iron-bearing minerals within them, which means they became magnetized by the local magnetic field within the gas, which have been preserved to this day
It was these magnetic fields that scientists focused on. Researchers were able to gather some chondrules from a meteorite named Semarkona, which fell in India in 1940. That piece of rock weight just 1.5 pounds, but it provides a wealth of information for scientists seeking clues on the early solar system
The modeling of these miniature magnetic fields suggest that shock waves passed through the solar nebula, melting chondrules. The events may have amplified the background magnetic field by up to 30 times. The findings reinforce the idea that shock waves melted rock in the location of today’s asteroid belt, which is two to four times farther from the sun than the Earth
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