The possibility of unlocking the mysteries just beyond our observational reach has tantalized stargazers for thousands of years. They have learned very little throughout that time.
Recently, however, an international team of researchers illuminated a vast and long-kept secret behind the history of our galaxy.
The team discovered a 7-billion-year-old speck of stardust inside the Murchison meteorite, which fell to earth in the late 1960s.
The minuscule fragment is the oldest solid material ever found on Earth. It’s even older than the solar system!
Clues from Long Ago and Far Away
While the age of the dust particle invites awe, what it reveals about our galaxy – and the universe – is equally breathtaking.
Researcher and cosmo-chemist Philipp Heck says he and his colleagues found telling elements within the bit of galactic dust. The modicum flecks were younger than the team would have otherwise expected.
Heck says the presence of these elements means that an unusually large number of stars had contributed material to the cosmic dust particle.
A Stellar Turn
“We came to the conclusion that about 7 billion years ago there must have been an episode of enhanced star formation, probably about 50 percent more stars formed than normal,” Heck told ABC Australia.
In other words, there was – at one point in the expansion of the universe – a momentous, star-birthing accumulation of matter tumbling away from the center of the Bing Bang!
Of course, Australia is quick to boast a stellar connection to the discovery. The Murchison meteorite fell to Earth in the Victorian country town of Murchison, in Western Australia, in 1969.
Watch the video below for more on Australia’s famous – and revelatory – rock from outer space.