Scientists Believe They've Found A Chunk Of An Ancient Planet In Algeria
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According to an analysis of the rock, its composition and age suggest that not only is it older than planet Earth, but it also could have been formed volcanically.
This is important as it means that it could have been part of the crust of an object called a 'protoplanet'.
The meteorite - called Erg Chech 002 - is an insight into the early stages of planet formation.
It was found in May 2020, and the several chunks of rock discovered weighed about 32 kilograms (70lbs) altogether.
The makeup of the rock showed that it must have come from a body that had an internal melting system - one of the middle stages of when a planet is formed.
Erg Chech 002, which goes by the nickname EC 002, was studied by a team of scientists, led by geochemist Jean-Alix Barrat of the University of Western Brittany in France
The team's analysis found that the rock is really, really old. In fact, the radioactive decay of the elements in the rock suggests that they crystallised about 4.565 billion years ago.
"This meteorite is the oldest magmatic rock analysed to date and sheds light on the formation of the primordial crusts that covered the oldest protoplanets," the paper reads.
The study added: "The crusts of the oldest protoplanets are virtually unknown due to the scarcity of samples.
"Here, we describe the oldest known lava that crystallised ca. 4,565 Ma ago and formed by partial melting of a chondritic parent body.
"26Al-26Mg systematics suggest that the elapsed time between melting and crystallization was significant, on the order of several 105 y, probably due to the viscosity of the magma.
"Although the first protoplanetary crusts were frequently not basaltic, their remains are not detected in the asteroid belt because their parent bodies served as the building blocks for larger rocky bodies or were nearly totally destroyed."
EC 002 gives scientists a chance to develop our understanding of how the solar system emerged.
And while we're getting closer to finding more about the origins of our own planet, scientists have also spotted a planet that could provide them with the opportunity to study the atmosphere of an Earth-like alien world.
It is thought that the super-Earth - which is being referred to as Gliese 486 b - could hold the key to finding extra-terrestrial life.
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