Best of 2016 // #87: Jewel from the Heavens


In early 2011 a mysterious find got seasoned meteorite hunter Birger Schmitz very excited.  The 3-inch object was not only a mysterious space rock, but also completely unique.

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Schmitz, a Lund University geologist, had spent 20 years poking around a Swedish quarry for space rocks.  The objet he found – named Österplana 065 (or Öst65 for short) after the quarry site – was found in the same limestone as typical meteorites.  This suggests it hit Earth at the same time as the others, around 470 million years ago.

However, Öst65 had a chemical fingerprint that was totally different from anything else that had ever been seen.

This led Schmitz and his team to hold a press conference in June, where they announced that they suspected that Öst65 was the first known ‘extinct’ meteorite.  Based on their findings, there are no longer any other meteorites like Öst65 floating in space, likely having been obliterated in the past by collisions and atmosphere entries.

“Not until you can hold it in your hand can you say it’s for real”
– Birger Schmitz, Geologist, Lund University.

Scientists have speculated about the possibility of ‘extinct’ meteorites before, but finally finding one will gives us a glimpse into what our solar system was like before we were ever here.

There’s 99 more stories from 2016.  Check out the Best of 2016 series here

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