Massive meteorite hid two minerals never before seen on Earth

Massive meteorite hid two minerals never before seen on Earth
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A giant meteorite discovered in Somalia turned out to be full of surprises. The El Ali meteorite is named after its landing site near the town of El Ali. It weighs 16.5 tons and is one of the largest meteorites ever found. Scientists investigating their composition discovered that they were two new minerals never before 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) chunk of the space rock. The new minerals are called elaliite (after the town near the meteorite) and elkinstonite in honor of Lindy Elkins Tantonthe principal investigator of the next NASA project psyche asteroid mission.

“Every time you find a new mineral, it means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, was different than what had been found before.” said geologist Chris Herdcurator at the University of Alberta meteorite collection, in a statement on Monday. “That’s what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite there are 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 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 at 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 recently come to the attention of the scientific community, it was reported that locals in Somalia who traced their origin for at least five generations. Only a small part of the meteorite has been extracted for study. According to Herd, the research team heard that the main meteorite was flown to China, where it could be for sale.

Scientists are still hoping to get their hands on more meteorites. They have already identified a possible third new mineral, and there could be more surprises hidden in the fallen space rock. The new minerals could be of interest beyond geology and astronomy. “Any time a new material is known,” Herd said, “materials scientists are also interested because of the potential uses in a wide range of things in society.”

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