Huge meteorite hid two minerals never before seen on Earth

Huge meteorite hid two minerals never before seen on Earth

A giant meteorite discovered in Somalia turned out to be full of surprises. The El Ali meteorite is named for its landing site near the town of El Ali. It weighs 16.5 tons (15 tons) and is one of the largest meteorites ever found. Scientists who examined its composition found that it hid two new minerals never seen before on Earth.

A research team from the University of Alberta in Canada discovered the minerals while examining a small slice of 70 grams of space rock. The new minerals are named elaliite (after the nearby city of the meteorite) and elk instantonite in honor of Lindy Elkins-Tantonthe principal investigator for NASA’s forthcoming Psyche asteroid mission.

“Anytime you find a new mineral, it means the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, were different from what’s been found before,” said geologist Chris Herdcurator of the University of Alberta Meteorite collection, in a statement on Monday. “That’s what makes this exciting. In this particular meteorite, you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.”

Herd enlisted mineralogist Andew Locock to help analyze the meteorite, which is now classified as a type of iron meteorite. Locock quickly identified the new minerals by comparing them to similar minerals that researchers had synthetically created in lab settings.

“That was phenomenal,” Herd said. “Usually it takes a lot more work than that to say there’s a new mineral.”

Herd presented the team’s findings at the Space Exploration Symposium in college earlier this month. The next step in the research will be to see what the minerals can tell scientists about the formation of the meteorite.

Although the El Ali meteorite has only recently come to the attention of the scientific community, it was reportedly known locals in Somalia who have traced its origins by at least five generations. Only a small portion of the meteorite has been extracted for study. According to Herd, the research team learned that the main meteorite has been moved to China, where it may be for sale.

Scientists still hope to get their hands on more of the meteorite. They’ve already identified a possible third new mineral, and more surprises may be hidden in the fallen space rock. The new minerals could be of interest beyond geology and astronomy. “Whenever a new material is known,” Herd said, “materials scientists are also interested because of its potential applications in a wide variety of things in society.”

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