How a 2012 meteor shower near Nagpur helped scientists unravel composition of Earth’s lower mantle

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October 12, 2021 6:10 PM

The meteorite fragments were examined by a team of international scientists, and they published their findings in a paper in PNAS reports this month.

The upper mantle of the Earth can be reached if it is drilled for around 410 kilometers. (Representational image)

Formation of the Earth: Studies in India have probably unravelled the mystery of what is present in the lower mantle of the Earth! In May of 2012, Maharashtra’s Katol (located near Nagpur) had borne witness to a large meteor shower, even as the villagers missed the show of the light due to it having occurred at noon. However, the accompanying thunder-like noises had caused rumours that there was an airplane crash, before the actual cause was discovered. Nevertheless, researchers from the Geological Survey of India had visited the small village the next day and collected 30 meteorite fragments. The largest of these fragments had a weight of about 1 kg, according to a report in IE.

When they conducted initial studies on the fragments, they found that the host rock of the shower was mainly made up of olivine, which is an olive-green material and is also the most abundant phase in the upper mantle of the Earth. The upper mantle of the Earth can be reached if it is drilled for around 410 kilometers.

The scientists then looked at the composition of the fragments that they had collected and have possibly solved the mystery around the composition that can be found in the lower mantle of the Earth – located at a depth of around 660 kilometers. Scientists are of the view that further studies of the fragments could lend more insight into the evolution of the Earth from a magma ocean to the rocky planet it is today.

The meteorite fragments were examined by a team of international scientists, and they published their findings in a paper in PNAS reports this month. In the paper, they reported the occurrence of the mineral bridgmanite, the first natural occurrence of the mineral to have been reported. The scientists conducted several experimental and computational studies to show that bridgmanite formed about 80% of the lower mantle of the Earth.

Now, looking at the meteorite sample, scientists can find out how this mineral crystallised when the Earth was in the final stages of its formation.

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