‘Unlike anything ever seen in our solar system’
A SPACE rock which fell to Earth and was discovered in the deserts of Egypt may unlock the mystery of how our solar system was formed.
The Hypatia stone, named for the first Western woman mathematician and astronomer, contains minerals unlike anything seen before.
Experts say the alien object may have formed at a time when the universe was still forming and may be older than the sun and its surrounding planets.
Scientists are excited because it contains micro-mineral compounds not found elsewhere in our region of space or on meteorites and comets.
It could quite literally rewrite history.
The discovery was made by researchers from the University of Johannesburg, who used advanced scanning techniques to probe the structure.
The original rock that fell to Earth must have been at least several metres wide, they say, but as it passed through the atmosphere it disintegrated into small fragments of which the Hypatia stone is one.
The stone itself is also broken into smaller sections of about one centimetre in size or smaller.
Members of the team immediately noticed that the structure of the hunk of minerals, discovered in southwest Egypt in 1996, looked nothing like anything they'd seen before.
It is thought Hypatia is a surviving fragment of a meteor that existed way before our solar system was formed, only to be captured by Earth's gravity millions of years later.
Jan Kramers, the professor who undertook the new study, said: "What we do know is that Hypatia was formed in a cold environment, probably at temperatures below that of liquid nitrogen on Earth (-196 Celsius).
"In our solar system it would have been way further out than the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, where most meteorites come from.
"Comets come mainly from the Kuiper Belt, beyond the orbit of Neptune and about 40 times as far away from the sun as we are. Some come from the Oort Cloud, even further out.
"We know very little about the chemical compositions of space objects out there.
"So our next question will dig further into where Hypatia came from."