Two minerals never before seen on Earth found in a 17-ton meteorite
Two minerals never before seen on Earth have been discovered in a massive meteorite in Somalia. They may hold important clues about how asteroids form.
The two brand-new minerals were found in a single 70-gram slab of the 16.5-ton (15-ton) El Ali meteorite, which crashed into Soil in 2020. Scientists named the minerals elaliite after the meteor and any instanton after that Lindy Elkins-Tanton (opens in new tab)the general director of the Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative and principal investigator of NASA’s upcoming Psyche mission, which will send a probe to investigate the mineral-rich Psyche asteroid for proof of how our solar systemthe planets formed.
“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,” Chris Herd (opens in new tab)said a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta in a pronunciation (opens in new tab). “That’s what makes this exciting. In this particular meteorite, you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.”
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The researchers classified El Ali as an iron IAB complex meteorite, a type made of meteoric iron studded with small pieces of silicates. While examining the meteorite slice, details of the new minerals caught the scientists’ attention. By comparing the minerals to versions of them previously synthesized in a lab, they were able to quickly identify them as completely new to nature.
The researchers plan to study the meteorites further to understand the conditions under which their parent asteroid formed. “That’s my expertise — how to tease out the geological processes and geological history of the asteroid this rock was once a part of,” Herd said. “I never thought I’d be involved in describing brand new minerals just by working on a meteorite.”
The team is also exploring materials science applications for the minerals.
However, future scientific insights from the El Ali meteorite may be in jeopardy. The meteorite has now been moved to China in search of a potential buyer, which could limit researchers’ access to the space rock for research.
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