In 2015, David Hole was excavating in Maryborough Provincial Park near Melbourne, Australia.
Armed with a metal detector, he discovered something unusual – a very heavy reddish boulder lying in yellow mud.
Bring it home and try everything to unlock it, sure enough there was a nugget of gold inside the rock – after all, Maryborough is in the Gold Fields, where Australian gold production peaked in the 19th century.
To unlock his discovery, Hall tried a rock saw, angle grinder, drill, and even submerged the thing in acid. However, not even a hammer can make a crack. It was because what he was trying so hard to unlock was not a nugget of gold. As he discovered years later, it was a rare meteorite.
Dermot Henry, geologist at the Melbourne Museum: “It was this sculpted, submerged look.” tell Sydney Morning Herald.
“It forms when they pass through the atmosphere, they melt on the outside and the atmosphere sculpts them.”
Unable to open “The Rock”, but still puzzled, Hall took the nugget to the Melbourne Museum to identify it.
“I’ve looked at a lot of rocks that people think are meteorites,” Henry told Channel 10.
In fact, after 37 years of working at the museum and examining thousands of rocks, Henry explained that only two of the exhibits turned out to be real meteorites.
It was one of the two.
“If you see a rock on Earth like this and pick it up, it shouldn’t be too heavy,” Melbourne Museum geologist Bill Birch said, tell Sydney Morning Herald in 2019.
The researchers published a scientific 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 using a diamond saw to cut a small slice, they discovered that its composition was high in iron, making it Ordinary chondrite H5.
Once opened, you can also see small crystallized droplets of metallic minerals, called chondrocytes.
“Meteorites are the cheapest form of space exploration. They transport us through time, and provide clues to the age, formation and chemistry of our solar system (including Earth).” Henry said.
“Some give a glimpse into the depths of our planet’s interior. In some meteorites there is ‘stellar dust’ that is older than our solar system, which shows us how stars form and evolve to form 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 and how long it stayed on Earth, they do have some guesses.
Our solar system was once a collection of rotating dust and rock chondrites. Gravity eventually collected a lot of this material in the planets, but the remnants ended up in a gigantic form asteroid Belt.
“It is likely that this particular meteor will come out of the asteroid belt between them Mars And JupiterIt was pushed out by asteroids that smashed into each other, and then one day crashed into the Earth.” Henry told Channel 10.
Carbon dating indicates that the meteorite was on Earth between 100 and 1000 years ago, and there were a number of meteorite sightings between 1889 and 1951 which could correspond to its arrival on our planet.
Researchers argue that the Mariboro meteorite is much rarer than gold. It is one of 17 meteorites ever recorded in the Australian state of Victoria, and is the second largest in cartilaginous mass, after a massive 55kg sample identified in 2003.
“This is the 17th meteorite found in Victoria, when thousands of gold nuggets were found”, Henry told Channel Ten.
“Given the chain of events, it suffices, one might say, astronomically to be discovered at all.”
It’s not the first meteorite that takes a few years to enter a museum. In a particularly surprising story covered by ScienceAlert in 2018, a space rock took 80 years, two owners, and spent like a detour before it was finally revealed for what it was.
Perhaps it is a good time to check your garden for rocks that are heavy and hard to break – you may be sitting in a metaphorical gold mine.
The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria.
A version of this article was originally published in July 2019.
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