Glass Beads in Meteorites

Glass Beads in Meteorites

Ever since scientists looked at meteorites with microscopes, they have been amazed and fascinated by what’s inside meteorites. Most meteorites date back to the early days of the Solar system; It is made up of tiny glass beads dating back to before planets even formed.

Scientists working with the University of Chicago have published an analysis that reveals how these beads, found in many asteroids, formed, and what it might say about what happened in the early Solar system.

“These are big questions,” says first author of the study, Nicole Xike Nie, who completed her PhD at the University of Chicago and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institute for Science. “The meteors are snapshots that reveal the conditions faced by these ancient dusts. They bear signs for the evolution of both Earth and other planets.”

‘This question dates back 50 years’

These glass beads inside the meteorites are called rainbow (meteorite pebble, chondrul). Scientists think they’re bits of rock from debris that formed billions of years ago around planets and eventually coalesced into the planets we know and love today. Celestials are very useful for scientists. Thanks to these objects, researchers can reach parts of the main things that make up the solar system. These are bodies from before the constant churning of volcanoes and Earth’s tectonic plates replaced all the rocks we can find on the planet.

But what exactly caused the formation of these celestial sands remains a mystery.

“We have theories that go back 50 years,” says Timo Hopp, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago and co-author of the study. “While there has been improvement in many other areas, this area has shown resilience.”

By looking at the types of elements in a rock, scientists can find clues to the early days of the Solar system. Elements can take several different forms, known as isotopes. The isotope ratio in each of the rocks depends on what happens when the rock is formed; for example, how hot it is, whether it slows down quickly or suddenly freezes, what other elements are interacting with it… Scientists can also compile a possible event history from here.

Cross-section of the Allende meteorite containing glass beads known as the rainbow. Photo: James St. John
Source: Popsici

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