Our Earth was visited by a rare space traveler that came from edge of Solar System. The fireball had mysteries that would likely revolutionize our knowledge of our Solar System’s formation.
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A spherical layer of things frozen in time exists at the frontier of the solar system, and some of these items are occasionally propelled toward the Sun, reports India Today. This is known as the Oort cloud, and as the object moves toward the Sun, it begins to burn up in the extreme heat of the Sun, leaving behind a blazing tail.
One such object passed through Earth’s atmosphere in 2021 as a bright blaze over central Alberta, Canada. The fireball had mysteries that would likely revolutionize our knowledge of our solar system’s genesis. While many comets are thought to be icy in nature, the one above Alberta was not.
An worldwide collaboration of scientists, stargazers, and professional and amateur astronomers discovered the object’s origin in the Oort Cloud. Researchers are yet to directly observe any objects in the Oort Cloud, but everything identified so far has been formed of ice.
According to the findings published in Nature Astronomy, considerable rocky material is implanted in the Oort cloud, a conclusion that classic Solar System formation theories do not explain.
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“This discovery supports an entirely different model of the formation of the Solar System, one which backs the idea that significant amounts of rocky material co-exist with icy objects within the Oort cloud. This result is not explained by the currently favoured Solar System formation models. It’s a complete game changer,” Denis Vida, a Western meteor physics postdoctoral researcher, said in a statement.
The grapefruit-sized rocky meteoroid was detected by Global Fireball Observatory (GFO) cameras created in Australia and operated by the University of Alberta. Western experts estimated it was in an orbit normally allocated for icy long-period comets from the Oort Cloud. Previous rocky fireballs have come from much closer to Earth.
“In 70 years of regular fireball observations, this is one of the most peculiar ever recorded. It validates the strategy of the GFO established five years ago, which widened the ‘fishing net’ toâ€¯5 million square kilometers of skies, and brought together scientific experts from around the globe. It notâ€¯only allows us to find and studyâ€¯precious meteorites, but it is the only way to have a chance of catching these rarer events that are essential to understanding our Solar System,” Hadrien Devillepoix, research associate at Curtin University added.
The space rock descended far deeper into the atmosphere than icy objects in similar orbits and disintegrated just like a blaze dropping stony meteorites. The study team is now trying to figure out how this rocky meteoroid wound up so far from its origins at the boundary of our Solar System.
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“The better we understand the conditions in which the Solar System was formed, the better we understand what was necessary to spark life. We want to paint a picture, as accurately as possible, of these early moments of the Solar System that were so critical for everything that happened after,” Denis Vida said.