Student's Space Rock Origin Theory Challenges Conventional Wisdom

Feb 26, 2016

A piece of the meteorite Gujba.
Credit Stephen Bilenky / National High Magnetic Field Laboratory

An FSU student’s space rock origin theory is blasting through expectations. 

FSU graduate Jonathan Oulton is an avid rock climber. But lately, he’s focusing on something a bit smaller. He’s published a study on Gujba, a meteorite formed when a metallic body collided with a planet. Oulton says his research sheds light on what was happening when our planets formed.

“And studies of meteoritics, like this one of Gujba, give us a snapshot image of that past. And through that, we can gain an understanding of how our solar system came to be as it is today. And that’s really important,” Oulton says.

Professor Munir Humayun compares it to the chicken and the egg dilemma. Scientists have long thought meteorites came before planets. But this one formed when something crashed into a planet. Humayun says he wants to look at more meteorites for signs of impact.

“Many people have seen impact-related features; there are others where people say you’ll never prove it there. But we might just get away doing that,” Humayun says.

Oulton completed the research as an undergraduate and is now a grad student at University of Colorado, Boulder. His paper will be published in a professional geochemistry journal.