Rare meteorite could hold secrets to life on Earth

© UKRI

Scientists are set to uncover the secrets of a rare meteorite and possibly the origins of oceans and life on Earth.

Research carried out on the meteorite, which fell in the UK earlier this year, suggests the rock dates back to the beginning of the solar system, 4.5 billion years ago. The meteorite has now been officially classified, thanks in part to Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) funded studies on the sample.

The Winchcombe meteorite, aptly named after the Gloucestershire town where it landed, is an extremely rare type called a carbonaceous chondrite. It is a stony meteorite, rich in water and organic matter, which has retained its chemistry from the formation of the solar system.

Initial analyses showing Winchcombe to be a member of the CM (“Mighei-like”) group of carbonaceous chondrites have now been formally approved by the Meteoritical Society.

STFC provided an urgency grant in order to help fund the work of planetary scientists across the UK. The funding has:

  • enabled the Natural History Museum to invest in state-of-the-art curation facilities to preserve the meteorite
  • supported time-sensitive mineralogical and organic analyses in specialist laboratories at several leading UK institutions.

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