A cookie-size rock fragment found in a Swedish quarry is likely a piece of a 470-million-year-old meteorite, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday. The rock contains elements in quantities that are not found on Earth, leading scientists to conclude that it may have been part of a meteorite that smashed into a larger celestial body, sending fragments sailing down to planet Earth hundreds of millions of years ago.
“The single meteorite that we now found ... is of a type that we do not know of from today’s world,” one of a study's co-authors, Birger Schmitz of Lund University in Sweden, told AFP. “The object contains very high concentrations [compared with Earth materials] of elements such as iridium, which is very rare on Earth,” Schmitz said. “The meteorite also contains high concentrations of rare isotopes of the element neon.”
The fragment, named Oest 65, was recently found in a limestone quarry in southern Sweden. It is thought to be from a meteorite that was around 12 to 19 miles wide when it crashed into a larger celestial body that was approximately 62 to 93 miles wide. Only one fragment, also called a chondrite, has been found from the larger body, and this latest find from the smaller object supports the breakup theory. The larger body is thought to have spread debris across the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.
The shower of fragments from these two rocks coincided with the segment of the Paleolithic Period during which marine life flourished and began to diversify rapidly. At the same time, most of Earth’s landmasses drifted together to form a supercontinent named Gondwana around 500 million years ago.
If the fragment is confirmed to be from the meteorite, it will be the first documented example of an “extinct” meteorite, as its parent object no longer exists.