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Murchison Meteorite dust is seven billion years old

By James Bennett

A team of American scientists say interstellar dust on the Murchison Meteorite is seven billion years old — give or take a couple of years.

It's believed to be the oldest solid material on Earth, and is older than the Sun (about 4.6 billion years).

The findings were officially published earlier this week in the American scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The news has Murchison & District Historical Society members rubbing their hands with glee, after last year the town celebrated the 50th anniversary of the meteorite breaking up over Murchison.

Murchison & District Historical Society secretary Margaret Lock was thrilled the Murchison Meteorite contained dust more than seven billion years old. Picture: Rodney Braithwaite

Society president Kay Ball said the news didn't come as a surprise.

“We've always known it (the meteorite) is important,” she said.

“What's happened over the years as each discovery is made, everyone goes ‘wow’ and then there's another discovery.

“With technology improving the way they study the samples, it means they can continue to keep finding things.

“Hundred of students have done their PhD on the Murchison Meteorite.”

Arnold Brisbane's cowshed which the meteorite hit at his farm on Hammond Rd near what is now Meteorite St.

One of the scientists who attended the celebrations in September, Philipp Heck from Chicago Field Museum, co-authored the final report.

Former Murchison resident and now Perth-based geologist Graham Begg said Prof Heck had revealed his findings during the 50-year celebrations.

Dr Begg joked Murchison received the scoop before the science community.

He said the discovery was "very exciting" and had "significant" widespread implications for cosmos scientists.

“It is a world first,” he said.

“There will now be a period of new models or models being tweaked by cosmos to work out how things formed and shape as far back as eight to 10 billion years ago.

“What is tells us is, there's space junk all over the place and the Murchison Meteorite grabbed a bit of that debris on the way.”

The report said the interstellar dust found on the Murchison Meteorite "is an important component of the galaxy".

The meteorite punched holes in the Brisbane family's cowshed on their Hammond Rd farm.

“It influences star formation as well as the thermal and chemical evolution of the galaxy.”

Mrs Ball added that Prof Heck said there were other things inside the meteorite that "they haven't found yet".

She said about 100 kg of the meteorite was collected in 1969.

The fragments were distributed to museums and universities across the world.

The Murchison Meteorite is believed to be more than four billion years old.

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