In brief: Meteorites

In brief: Meteorites

Introduction

  • Meteoroids are chunks of rocks in space just like asteroids. (only difference is size)
  • When these meteoroids strikes the earth’s atmosphere, they appear are flash of light called meteor.
  • In its travel to earth it the meteor survives it is called as meteorite.
  • Thus meteorites are inter-planetary rocks that have been formed elsewhere in the solar system but have reached the earth.

Significance of Meteorites

  • Since the meteorites have note undergone the geological processes on earth or any other planet, they are said to be pristine objects formed at the beginning of solar system.
  • Thus Meteorites are significant in revealing the origin and evolution of Solar System.
  • This is done by studying the elements they contain.

Basics

Origin of elements

  • Any star including our own sun basically survives on the fusion reaction in its core.
  • Different elements we see in nature are formed by different processes.
  • In our Sun, hydrogen atoms are undergoing fusion reaction to form helium at extremely high temperatures.
  • In massive stars (1000 times bigger than sun), the heaviest element formed due to fusion reaction is Iron.
  • Note: The maximum temperatures that can be achieved in the core of the star is only enough to make iron.
  • Elements heavier than Iron are formed are formed in various other events such as
  • Super nova explosion
  • This is because due to high pressure of explosion leads to higher temperatures making fusion of heavier elements possible
  • Solar flares
  • These are high energy pulses released by sun’s corona.
  • The solar flares are violent eruptions of sun that occur at intense magnetic fields at the corona. (called sunspots)
  • A solar flare can have as much energy as 100 trillion nuclear bombs.
  • Such high energy can result in fusion of heavier elements.

The study of Efremovka Meteorite

  • The meteorite found in Efremovka is known to be the one of the most pristine meteorites formed during early stages of solar system.
  • The early elements formed during solar flare eruptions during early ages of sun (about 5 lakh years old) are calcium and aluminium.
  • The study shows how meteorites ended up containing beryllium-10.
  • Beryllium-10 is known to form due to fission of oxygen or carbon.
  • The study of the Efremovka meteorite has revealed how beryllium-9 decayed into beryllium-7 which in turn fused to form beryllium-10 in the meateorite.

Conclusion

  • So far this was believed that beryllium-10 formed only during a supernova event.
  • Now the study has confirmed that the Solar flares of early sun had so much energy that it fused lighter elements into heavier ones
Section : Science & Tech

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