Two minerals never before seen on Earth have been discovered inside a huge meteorite in Somalia. They could hold important clues to how asteroids formed.
The two new minerals were found inside a single 2.5-ounce (70-gram) chip taken from the 16.5-tonne (15 metric-ton) meteorite of the Most High, which shattered into a land In 2020. Scientists named the mineral elaliite meteor And elkinstantonite yet Lindy Elkins Tanton (Opens in a new tab)managing director of the Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative and principal investigator on NASA’s upcoming Psyche mission, which will send a probe to investigate mineral-rich Psyche asteroid For a guide on how we work Solar SystemPlanets formed.
“When you find a new mineral, it means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, were different from what was found before,” Chris Hurd (Opens in a new tab)Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta statement (Opens in a new tab). “That’s what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.”
The researchers classified Al-Ali as an IAB-iron complex meteorite, a type made of meteorite iron speckled with small pieces of silicate. While investigating the meteorite slice, new mineral details caught the scientists’ attention. By comparing the minerals to copies of them previously synthesized in the lab, they were able to quickly identify them as newly recorded in nature.
The researchers plan to investigate the meteorites further in order to understand the conditions under which the original asteroid formed. “This is my expertise – how do you tease out the geological processes and geological history of the asteroid that this rock was a part of,” Hurd said. “I never thought that I would be involved in describing completely new minerals by working on a meteorite.”
The team is also looking at materials science applications for metals.
However, future scientific insights from Al-Ali’s 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 investigation.