[meteorite-list] Meteorite mineral named after beer is time capsule

From: Shawn Alan <shawnalan_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2015 19:15:51 -0700
Message-ID: <20150123191551.e8713c95af9984a493c5db01816d4c10.e2f1ee3325.wbe_at_email22.secureserver.net>

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Shawn Alan
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Meteorite mineral named after beer is time capsule
15:55 22 January 2015 by Catherine Brahic
For similar stories, visit the Solar System and Cosmology Topic Guides

Take a deep breath. Can you taste the flavour of ancient space? Nitrogen
in Earth's atmosphere has been traced back to the spinning disc of dust
and gas that formed our solar system, and may even have yielded ammonia
to fuel organic reactions. This all comes courtesy of a meteorite found
in Antarctica named after a popular brand of beer.

"Our [meteorite] samples were collected in Antarctica in the late
1970s," says Dennis Harries of The Friedrich-Schiller University in
Jena, Germany. "They fell there hundreds or thousands of years ago."
Known as chondritic meteorites, their history goes back some 4.6 billion
years. At that time, our solar system was a vast disc of dust and gas,
called the protoplanetary disc, spinning around the sun.

Harries and his colleagues were studying the make-up of the meteorites
when they found a mineral called carlsbergite, named after the Carlsberg
Foundation, an offshoot of the Danish brewery, which funded previous
work on it.

Carlsbergite is a rare composite of chromium and nitrogen. Because of
the meteorite's age, it acts like a time capsule, telling us about the
form these elements were in while our planet was forming. Looking at the
ratio of nitrogen isotopes in his samples, Harries found that it was
very close to the ratio in the nitrogen that makes up two-thirds of
Earth's atmosphere today. That suggests they have a common origin, and
the nitrogen in our atmosphere came from the protoplanetary disc.


From a cold start

As for the formation of the carlsbergite itself, Harries imagines "a
dusty volume of space in which dust grains were freely floating in a
very thin gas ? almost a vacuum. These grains may have been covered by
thin shells of ice containing ammonia and other compounds."

Received on Fri 23 Jan 2015 09:15:51 PM PST

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