Researchers have conducted a study on a mysterious meteorite that exploded in 2008 over Sudan. NASA was estimated to weigh about nine tons and have a diameter of about 13 feet when spotted before the impact. After the meteorite penetrated the atmosphere and affected the planet’s surface, researchers went to the Sudanese desert to collect its remains for study. One of these fragments suggests that the meteor probably broke off from a massive asteroid about the size of the dwarf planet Ceres.
Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt. The meteorite is known as Almahata Sitta (AhS) and is made of a material known as carbonaceous chondrite. The image above is of a portion of the meteorite in false color. The composition of the space rock provides researchers with clues about the parent asteroid that gave birth to a given meteor.
The composition of an asteroid can tell scientists how an asteroid was formed. In this study, the team analyzed a 50 mg AhS sample under a microscope and discovered that it has a unique mineral composition. Minerals in the asteroid were found to be formed at intermediate temperatures and pressures, higher than you would expect in a typical asteroid, but lower than what you would find inside a planet.
One of the minerals was particularly enigmatic and is known as amphibole and requires prolonged exposure to water to form. The specific mineral has only been discovered once in another meteorite. The high content of amphibole indicates that the fragment that researchers are studying broke off from an older asteroid that had never deposited meteorites on Earth.
Many more fragile minerals can not survive the entry of the earth’s atmosphere. Researchers from the study also mentioned that they expect the asteroid samples purchased by JAXA from Ryugu to reveal minerals that rarely appear in meteorites on Earth.