Research Highlight

Near-earth asteroid likely parent of Mukundpura meteorite

doi:10.1038/nindia.2021.6 Published online 13 January 2021

A fragment of the Mukundpura meteorite.

© Ray, D & Shukla, A. D.

A rare carbon-rich meteorite that fell in a Rajasthan village in June 2017 may have come from a near-earth asteroid, and can shed light on the origin of life and the formation of the universe1.

Physicists researching the minerals of the meteorite that fell in Mukundpura near Jaipur have found its closest analogue in carbonaceous material collected and brought back to earth from the asteroid Ryugu on 5 December 2020 by the Hayabusa 2 mission of the Japanese Space Agency JAXA. “In light of these new asteroid samples, the results have become even more interesting,” says the corresponding author of the study Dwijesh Ray from the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

Carbon meteorites hold a mixture of water and ice and provide the best clues on the origin and evolution of water and volatile compounds in terrestrial planets. Through routine microscopic examination, X-ray diffraction, mineral chemistry and spectroscopic studies, the researchers found that the Mukundpura meteorite had experienced varying degrees of aqueous alteration (reaction of the original minerals with water) resulting in high amounts (~90%) of phyllosilicates (complex mixture of minerals including the micas, chlorite, talc, and clay minerals) comprising both magnesium and iron.

Most of this alteration seems to have occurred within the asteroidal parent body during the early evolutionary history of the Solar System, the authors say. “This implies that carbonaceous meteorite chondrites are useful for surface studies of asteroids, particularly for linking laboratory spectra with the remotely acquired spectra from telescope and asteroid missions, and to link meteorites to the near-earth asteroids,” Ray says.


References

1. Baliyan, S. et al. Mineralogy and spectroscopy (visible near infrared and Fourier Transform infrared) of Mukundpura CM2: Implications for asteroidal aqueous alteration. Geochemistry (2020) doi: 10.1016/j.chemer.2020.125729