The Hypatia stone is just a couple of centimeters wide, but despite that, scientists find it to be the most interesting rock ever. This incredible piece of stone contains unique compounds that are not found elsewhere in the entire solar system.

It was in the year 1966 when Hypatia rock was first discovered by a mathematician and astronomer, Aly Barakat when he was studying the Libyan desert glass.  Just upon looking at the stone, Barakat knew it was unique, significant and not from Earth. In the year 2013, geologists confirmed that the Hypatia stone was indeed of extraterrestrial origin. At that time, they assumed that this rock, containing microscopic diamonds, was part of a comet nucleus. But recent studies have different and much more interesting conclusions to share.

The Hypatia Stone (Source: Dr Mario Di Martino/INAF Osservatorio Astrofisico di Torino)

Conducted by geologists working at the University of Johannesburg, the new research claims that the Hypatia stone contains rock fragments which were created before our solar system came into existence. If this is true, then the current theories on the solar system’s origin become questionable.

One of the members of the search team, Jan Kramers told the media that the Hypatia stone contains several presolar compounds such as nickel phosphides, hydrocarbons and silicon carbides. He further added that the stone seemed to have formed during the early solar nebula. According to him, the structure of the stone is analogous to a fruit cake. Most of the rock matrix represents the cake dough, whereas the embedded mineral gains are comparable to fruits and nuts. Upon hitting Earth, the stone interacted with other metals which combined with existing elements, forming the structure the stone is in today.

The research team studied the stone’s composition using sophisticated equipment. The fragments of the stone which don’t belong to Earth can easily be identified. The basic elements making up these compounds are the same like carbon, silicon, iron and aluminum, but the ratios are completely different and not anything like other objects which revolve around the sun.

Chondritic meteorites are of the most common type of meteorites, contain carboning and silicon. Carbon is present in significantly smaller amounts compared to silicon. The Hypatia stone also comprises of carbon and silicon, but unlike meteorites, the percentage of carbon is much greater than silicon. Thus, the stone is chemically different when compared to other planets and solar objects. Moreover, the stone also contains a larger percentage of interstellar dust which contains polyaromatic hydrocarbons as the major component and existed before the solar system came into being.

The hydrocarbons found in interstellar dust transformed into diamonds when the stone entered the Earth’s atmosphere and was impacted by pressure and heat. These diamonds formed a protective layer around the stone, preserving it for all these years.

The Hypatia stone also contains aluminum, iron, phosphorus and other elements in different compositions that are being observed for the first time.  

Future work includes combining planetary research with the stone analysis, and studying the elemental compositions in greater detail.