(ORDO NEWS) — In 2015, David Hole was surveying the Maryborough Regional Park near Melbourne, Australia.
Armed with a metal detector, he discovered something unusual – a very heavy reddish stone lying in yellow clay.
He took it home and tried to open it, being sure that there was a gold nugget inside the stone – after all, Maryborough is located in the Goldfields region, where the Australian gold rush peaked in the 19th century.
To open his find, Howl tried a saw, an angle grinder, a drill, and even doused it with acid. However, even a sledgehammer could not break through the crack. This is because what he tried so hard to discover was not a gold nugget.
As he learned many years later, it was a rare meteorite.
“It had such a sculpted, pitted appearance,” Melbourne Museum geologist Dermot Henry told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2019.
“It forms when they go through the atmosphere, they melt on the outside and the atmosphere makes them sculptural.”
Unable to open the “stone” but still intrigued, Hole took the nugget to the Melbourne Museum for identification.
“I’ve looked at a lot of rocks that people think are meteorites,” Henry said in an interview with Channel 10.
In fact, after 37 years at the museum and examining thousands of rocks, Henry said that only two of them turned out to be true meteorites.
It was one of them.
“If you saw a rock like this on Earth and picked it up, it shouldn’t be that heavy,” Melbourne Museum geologist Bill Birch told The Sydney Morning Herald.
The researchers published a paper describing the 4.6 billion year old meteorite, which they named Maryborough after the city near where it was found.
It weighs a whopping 17 kilograms (37.5 pounds), and after a small piece was cut off with a diamond saw, researchers found a high percentage of iron in its composition, making it a common H5 chondrite.
When you open it, you can see tiny crystallized droplets of metallic minerals called chondrules.
“Meteorites represent the cheapest form of space exploration. They take us back in time, providing clues to the age, formation and chemical composition of our solar system (including Earth),” says Henry.
“Some of them allow you to look into the deep interior of our planet. Some meteorites contain “star dust” even older than our solar system, which shows us how stars form and evolve, creating elements of the periodic table.”
“Other rare meteorites contain organic molecules such as amino acids; the building blocks of life.”
While researchers don’t yet know where the meteorite came from or how long it may have been on Earth, they have some speculation.
Our solar system was once a swirling pile of dust and chondrite rocks. Gravity eventually collected most of this material into planets, but the rest ended up mostly in the vast asteroid belt.
“This particular meteorite most likely came out of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and was pushed out by several asteroids that crashed into each other, and then one day it crashed into the Earth,” Henry said in an interview with News Channel 10.
Carbon dating suggests that the meteorite has been on Earth for between 100 and 1000 years, and there have been several meteorite sightings between 1889 and 1951 that may correspond to its arrival on our planet.
The researchers say the Maryborough meteorite is much rarer than gold, making it much more valuable to science. It is one of only 17 meteorites ever recorded in the Australian state of Victoria and is the second largest chondrite mass after a huge 55 kg specimen discovered in 2003.
“This is only the 17th meteorite found in Victoria, while thousands of gold nuggets have been found,” Henry said in an interview with Channel 10 News.
“If you look at the chain of events, you can say that this is an astronomical discovery.”
This is not even the first meteorite that took several years to get into the museum. In a particularly amazing story that ScienceAlert told in 2018, one space rock took 80 years, two owners, and a doorstep before it finally became what it really was.
Perhaps now is the perfect time to check your yard for particularly heavy and hard-to-break rocks – you may be sitting on a metaphorical goldmine.
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