Science

The massive meteorite hid two minerals never before seen on Earth

The massive meteorite hid two minerals never before seen on Earth

A giant meteorite discovered in Somalia turns out to be full of surprises. The El Ali meteorite was named after its landing location near the town of El Ali. It weighs 16.5 tonnes (15 tonnes) and is one of the largest meteorites ever found. Scientists who investigated its composition discovered that it hides two new minerals that have not been seen on Earth before.

A research team from the University of Alberta in Canada discovered the minerals while examining a small 2.5 ounce (70 gram) piece of space rock. The new minerals were named elaliite (for the nearby meteorite city) and elkinstantonite in their honor Lindy Elkins-Tantonprincipal investigator for NASA’s upcoming Psyche asteroid mission.

“Whenever you find a new mineral, it means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, were different from what was previously found,” said geologist Chris Herdcurator of the University of Alberta Collection of meteorites, 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.”

Heard brought in mineralogist Andew Locock to help analyze the meteorite, which is now classified as a type of iron meteorite. Locock quickly identified new minerals by comparing them to similar minerals that researchers had created synthetically under laboratory conditions.

“That was awesome,” Hurd said. “In most cases, it takes a lot more work than just saying there’s a new mineral.”

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

Although the El Ali meteorite has only recently come to the attention of the scientific community, it was allegedly known locals in Somalia who traced his origins for at least five generations. Only a small part of the meteorite was taken out for study. According to Herd, the research team heard that the main meteorite had been moved to China, where it might be for sale.

Scientists are still hoping to get more meteorites. They’ve already identified a possible third new mineral, and there could be more surprises hiding in the fallen space rock. The new minerals could be of interest beyond geology and astronomy. “Whenever there’s a new material that’s known,” Heard said, “materials scientists are also interested because of the potential use in a wide range of things in society.”



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