It looks like a block of mud and smells (some say) on spicy vegetables. Nevertheless, the latest addition to the Chicago Museum of Natural History’s collection is a marvelous thing – a visitor from all over space who fell to Earth earlier this year as a meteorite.
This piece of the so-called cosmic sludge meteorite – called Aguas Zarcas, for the Costa Rica area where it landed – weighs about 4 pounds. (1.8 pounds). Unlike many rocky or metallic meteorites, it has a characteristic aroma that is a bit like boiled mussel sprouts, said representatives of the Field Museum in a statement.
This smell comes from organic compounds such as amino acids. A few billion years ago, nasty meteorites like this were probably what shone the Earth building blocks for life, and Field Museum scientists will study stinky space rock to find clues about the materials that have shaped our solar system, the statement said.
Related: Space-y stories: 5 strangest meteorites
Aguas Zarcas fell to Earth on April 23, blazing the sky above Costa Rica's Alajuela province like a spectacular fireball, The Meteorite Society reported, The meteorite crumbled as it entered; one quick piece weighing about 41 ounces (1,162 grams) was broken into the house, and another fragment weighing about 10 ounces (280 g) hit the dog's house, the report said.
About 50,000 meteorites have been discovered on Earth. Of that number, 99.8% come from asteroids; and the rest of the rocks were blown off Mars and our moon by meteor collisions, NASA saysThere are three main types of meteorites: either they are mostly iron, they are mostly rocky or they are a mixture of rock and metal in almost equal amounts, according to NASA.
Ground ball is a type of rocky meteorite known as carbonate chondrite; they account for only about 4% of all meteorites that reach the Earth, said Philipp Heck, associate curator for meteoritics and polar studies, Robert A. Pritzker at the Field Museum. They are an unusually rare type, because in most parents asteroids, intense warming over time changes the chemistry of asteroids and destroys amino acids, Heck said in an email to Live Science.
Although many carbon chondrite meteorites contain organic compounds, many of them become contaminated with terrestrial amino acids after collide with EarthHeck said.
What gives the smell of mud to its mud after the Brussels sprout? "odor organically volatile compounds leaving the meteorite, "Heck explained." Different meteorites have different volatile supplies, mainly because they were "cooked" to varying degrees in different amounts of time on their parent asteroids. Because of this, they smell differently. "
The other carbon chondrite meteorite, perhaps the best studied in the world, is the Murchison meteorite, which is also in the Museum of the Field collection. This space rock fell in 1969 and has a "tar-like smell," Heck said. "Aguas Zarcas smells sweeter to me."
However, while tangling space rock can smell it, geologists never taste it (yes, geologists sometimes test their test items as a diagnostic test).
"Most geologists learn to lick their rocks. I learned that in basic geology classes at the university. However, we refrain from licking meteorites," Heck said in an email.
"First, because we don't want to contaminate them. Second, because we don't want to expose them to running water, which degrades them, especially to metal and water-soluble minerals and organs. And third, because some meteorites contain harmful materials when eaten," he explained.
Originally Posted on Live Science.