Odd-Looking Meteorite May Be The First Object To Have Come From The Kuiper Belt
A strange-looking meteorite may have come from outside the solar system, a new study suggests.
The Tagish Lake meteorite was named after the icy lake in Canada's British Columbia where it landed in 2000, and it has since baffled scientists because it appears different from the other meteorites that had been found.
According to William Bottke and David Nesvorný from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder Colorado and David Vokrouhlický from Charles University in the Czech Republic, this is because the meteorite did not come from the asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter. The meteorite may have come from much farther away, specifically the Kuiper belt, a ring of rocks lying past Neptune's orbit and in the outer solar system.
If the assumption about the Tagish Lake meteorite is true, then it would be the first identified meteorite to have come from outside the solar system.
Another unique characteristic of the meteorite apart from its appearance is its composition. According to earlier analysis, the meteorite was mostly made of carbon, with higher concentration of amino acids compared with other meteorites, which is 100 times the usual amount, Phys.org reports.
According to the researchers, who published their findings in the Astronomical Journal, the origins of the meteorite could be traced back to the early solar system, when gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune were jostling around for position. The asteroids where it came from may have been originally from the Kuiper belt, but were dragged inward along with others in the Kuiper belt because of the shifting of the planets.
The researchers said that it could also point to the earlier theory about another gas giant. The theory stated that there were originally five - instead of four - gas giants in the solar system. According to the researchers, and the ejection of this giant planet might have pulled the Kuiper belt objects to the asteroid belt, and eventually found their way to Earth.
The discovery happened just in time for a NASA mission to the Kuiper belt. The agency has recently announced that it will extend the New Horizons mission to study an object called 2014 MU69.