The latest research on an extraterrestrial stone discovered in Egypt has shown its mineral composition is unlike anything found in our solar system. Further, researchers say the formation of the stone predates the sun, forcing the scientific community to question traditionally held beliefs about how the solar system itself was created.
The “Hypatia” stone, named for Hypatia of Alexandria, the first prominent Western female astronomer and mathematician, was first discovered in 1996. By 2013, scientists had proven that the rock, which is broken into pebble fragments, was not from Earth. Two years later, it was established that Hypatia had not come to Earth from any known comet or meteorite.
Now, in a newly published study, a research team from the University of Johannesburg has revealed that even less is known about the mysterious rock than previously thought.
“When Hypatia was first found to be extraterrestrial, it was a sensation, but these latest results are opening up even bigger questions about its origins,” said Dr. Marco Andreoli, a research fellow at the School of Geosciences at the University of the Witwatersrand and a member of the study team.
That team, led by geochemistry professor Jan Kramers, describes the internal structure of the Hypatia stone as something like a fruitcake that’s fallen off a shelf and landed in a pile of flour. The cake dough represents the majority of the stone’s makeup, the fruits and nuts are the mineral grains, and the flour is the material picked up by the stone when it impacted Earth.
To discover how Hypatia formed, the team analyzed the mineral compounds contained within the stone’s fragments. What they found was that the combinations of minerals were unlike anything else known to exist in our solar system.
For instance, Hypatia has the opposite ratio of carbons to silicons found in known types of meteorites. What’s more, this unique mixture that makes up the stone appears to have formed in pre-solar time — meaning before the sun and the planets of our solar system.
These discoveries, which suggest the Hypatia stone formed outside our solar system and long before it was even created, are forcing scientists to reexamine the prevailing theory that the solar system came about when a nebula collapsed into the sun and the remaining material formed the planets.
Future analysis will no doubt provide even more startling details about Earth’s most mysterious rock, but as professor Kramers states, revelations about Hypatia’s origins are already “tugging at the generally accepted view of the formation of our solar system.”