A massive meteorite hid two minerals never before seen on Earth

A massive meteorite hid two minerals never before seen on Earth

A giant meteorite discovered in Somalia was full of surprises. The El Ali meteorite is named after 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 investigating its composition discovered that it hid two new minerals never seen on Earth.

A research team from the University of Alberta in Canada discovered the minerals while examining a small 2.5 ounce (70 gram) portion of the space rock. The new minerals are named elaliite (for the nearby city of the meteorite) and elkinstantonite after Lindy Elkins-Tantonthe principal investigator of the next NASA project Psyche Asteroid Mission.

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

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

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

Herd presented the team’s findings in the Space Exploration 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 formation of the meteorite.

Although the El Ali meteorite has only recently attracted the attention of the scientific community, it is known locals in Somalia who traced their origin for 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 was moved to China, where it may be for sale.

Scientists are still hoping to get more from the meteorite. 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 becomes known,” Herd said, “materials scientists are also interested in the potential uses in a wide range of things in society.”

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