Two minerals never seen on Earth before have been discovered in a gigantic meteorite weighing 16.5 tonnes, offering researchers possible clues to how space rocks are formed.
The brand new minerals were found in a 2.5-ounce slice of the El Ali meteorite in Somalia, which was discovered in 2020 and is the ninth-largest meteorite ever discovered, the University of Alberta said in a statement. Press release. Meteorites are meteors that survive by passing through Earth’s atmosphere and landing on the ground, according to NASA.
Samples of the meteorite were taken and sent to the University of Alberta for classification, where researchers discovered the minerals. The researchers also said they may have identified a third new mineral, although it is still being investigated. The results were presented at the university’s Space Exploration Symposium on November 21-22.
“Any time 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 Chris Herd, curator of the University’s meteorite collection. of Alberta and Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. said in a statement. “That’s what makes it exciting: in this particular meteorite, you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.”
Herd knew there was something unique about the slice when he first observed it, so he called his colleague Andrew Locock, who had previously been involved in mineral descriptions, said the ‘university. The minerals had been synthetically done before, so Locock confirmed the new minerals by comparing the compositions of natural and man-made minerals.
One of the minerals was named elaliite, in reference to the name of the meteorite, which comes from the region where it was found in Somalia. The other was named elkinstantonite, after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, vice president of the Interplanetary Initiative at Arizona State University and principal investigator of NASA’s upcoming Psyche mission, which will attempt to send a orbiter to the metal-rich asteroid in 2023.
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New minerals could have new uses
With the help of researchers from UCLA and the California Institute of Technology, Herd classified the meteorite as an “Iron, complex IAB” meteorite, one of 350 such, the university said.
Researchers will perform further tests on the minerals, hoping they offer insight into the conditions inside the meteorite as it formed, when they are known as meteoroids. If more samples could be taken from the meteorite, there could be other unique minerals to be discovered, which could lead to new uses on our planet, the statement said.
“Whenever a new material is known, materials scientists are also interested because of the potential uses in a wide range of things in society,” Herd said.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.
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