UJ researchers make interesting discovery in Hypatia stone

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Researchers at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) have found exotic micro-mineral compounds in the ‘Hypatia’ stone that are not known to occur on Earth, elsewhere in the solar system or in known meteorites or comets.

Professor Jan Kramers and Dr Georgy Belyanin from the UJ PPM Research Centre at the Department of Geology made the discovery.

“Analyses on a small pebble found in south-west Egypt cast significant questions on a widely-held view about the primitive pre-solar dust cloud which our Sun, Earth and other planets were formed from,” UJ said in a statement on Thursday.

Lead author of the study, Kramers was recently recognised as a “Leading international researcher” (A-rated) by the National Research Foundation.

Kramers is a geochemist currently specialising in dating techniques (especially for hominin fossils) and analysis of extraterrestrial objects.

“In 2013, Kramers and his co-authors announced that the Hypatia pebble found in south-west Egypt, was definitely not from Earth.

“By 2015, other research teams had announced that the stone was not part of any known types of meteorite or comet, based on noble gas and nuclear probe analyses,” UJ said.

Kramers said the Hypatia was formed in a cold environment, probably at temperatures below that of liquid nitrogen on Earth (-196 degrees 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," Kramers said. – SAnews.gov.za

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