A meteorite that exploded in the skies last year above where gold was discovered along the American River is providing UC Davis geologists a rare window into the earliest days of the solar system.
University of California, Davis, is one of five institutions that have part of the main mass of the Sutter's Mill meteorite, as it is known, university officials announced Thursday.
UC Davis researchers received their pieces Wednesday. Though they total about 10 grams – or about 5 percent of the palm-size main mass – researchers say it could provide a clearer picture of how the planets were formed.
"This was kept in pristine condition for 4 1/2 billion years," said UC Davis geology professor Qing-zhu Yin. After being preserved for billions of years in the cold storage of deep space, the new meteorite sample "allows us to examine the solar system in its infancy."
Yin was among those who rushed to the El Dorado County foothills in April 2012 after the shower of space rock struck Earth near Coloma, about 60 miles east of the UC Davis campus, in what scientists have called the Sutter's Mill event.
"It's just awesome," Yin said. "It's at a gold discovery site and nature's wonder is happening."
Tearing through space, the mass was about 100,000 pounds and roughly the size of a minivan, ...