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Student's Space Rock Origin Theory Challenges Conventional Wisdom

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.

Ashley Tressel is a senior Communication and English student at Florida State University. Before WFSU, she interned at the Executive Office of the Governor and The Borgen Project, a national nonprofit for global poverty. She also wrote freelance for Carbonated.tv, a multimedia news site and served as managing editor for the FSU International Programs magazine, Nomadic Noles, in Valencia, Spain. After graduation, Ashley plans to embark on her journalism career somewhere in Colorado.