It's green. It's sparkly. It's the size of a baseball. And it's 4.6 billion years old. Meet "Northwest Africa 11119," the meteorite that's helping scientists learn about the early days of our solar system.
Although researchers have found space rocks that date back further before, NWA 11119 is unique because it's the oldest igneous meteorite ever discovered. Igneous means that it was formed by the cooling of hot magma. As a result, NWA 11119 looks very similar to volcanic rock that forms here on Earth — so much so that scientists weren't even sure it was a meteorite at first. But on closer examination, it was confirmed to be "alien in origin," Newsweek reported. And because it's right around the age of this solar system, it must be from "one of the very first volcanic events to take place" in this part of the universe, said Carl Agee, a meteorite curator at the University of New Mexico.
Researchers aren't yet sure which body NWA 11119 originated from, but they theorize it must be an asteroid that has a crust similar to Earth's, Live Science explained. Agee and a doctoral student, Poorna Srinivasan, have also linked the meteorite to two others, called "NWA 7235" and "Almahata Sitta," suggesting that they may have all come from the same place. This might help researchers piece together what "an earlier version of Earth" looked like, Srinivasan said.