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Ask Ethan: Did Some Of Earth’s Meteorites Originate Beyond The Solar System?

3 Aug 2019, 14:01 UTC
Ask Ethan: Did Some Of Earth’s Meteorites Originate Beyond The Solar System?
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In 1860, a meteor grazed Earth, and produced a spectacularly luminous light display. It is eminently possible that some of the meteors that strike Earth have their origins outside of our Solar System. (FREDERIC EDWIN CHURCH / JUDITH FILENBAUM HERNSTADT)It’s not a question of could they, but have they? Here’s how we’ll find out.It’s no secret that fragments of asteroids, comets, and other spaceborne objects have been found here on Earth. Whenever a naturally occurring object encounters planet Earth, it speeds through our atmosphere, creating a spectacular streak of light: a proverbial shooting star. Most of these are assumed to originate in our own Solar System, consistent with our experience with meteor showers, and some of them even make it to Earth’s surface, becoming meteorites. But, with the recent visit from an interstellar interloper — ‘Oumuamua — are we certain that they’re all from close to home? That’s the question of Jan Rolstad, who asks:The passage of ‘Oumuamua through our planetary plane got me wondering about something. Most meteorites found on Earth are dated back as far as 4.6 billion years, or the age of our solar system. What if a meteorite was found that had originated in a another, ...

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