Astronomers know a fair amount about the birth of stars and planets from observing star-forming regions called nebulae. These areas of hot gas and dust are the cradles of creation in our universe, and each one is slightly different. That element of variety is why, aside from the basics of how it happened, we know very little about our origins.
Recent analyses of meteorite crystals have revealed some interesting secrets about the sun’s mysterious youth. Hibonite, a brown or blue translucent stone found on some asteroids, hold clues to our past in their chemical structure. The Murchison meteorite, which landed in Australia back in 1969, contained some particularly intriguing hibonite crystals.
The rock itself is believed to have originated in the asteroid belt, and the crystals it carried are renowned for their isotopic anomalies, setting them apart from the majority of hibonite crystals. Unlike the others, these crystals are blue instead of amber-colored, and their chemical composition is unique.
According to the trace elements in the Murchison hibonite crystals, the sun’s early days were marked by massive bursts of solar radiation. These highly-charged particles transformed the calcium and aluminum deposits in the hibonite crystals into neon and helium, which became trapped inside the stones.
Researchers also noticed that younger crystals lacked neon and helium, meaning something triggered the massive energy bursts from the young sun. That discovery sparked the scientists to ask a new question: What happened?
Moving forward while looking back
With these discoveries, scientists have begun further analyzing hibonite crystals in the hopes of learning more about the sun’s early years. Previous claims of evidence for our sun’s active youth have been shaky at best, but this breakthrough has led to new confidence in that conjecture.
Researchers are developing a new instrument that will help them measure other trace elements contained within asteroids to analyze what the early solar system was made of and what changes it may have gone through. Hibonite is shaping up to be the new cosmological Rosetta Stone for these scientists, and they are itching to learn more about them.