Minerals never seen on Earth before found in massive meteorite

New minerals have been discovered in a massive meteorite that may reveal clues to asteroid...
New minerals have been discovered in a massive meteorite that may reveal clues to asteroid formation.(University of Alberta)
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 7:14 PM CST
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(Gray News) - A team of researchers discovered minerals they say have never been seen before on Earth.

According to the University of Alberta, the team found at least two such minerals in a 15-tonne meteorite, the ninth largest meteorite ever found, in Somalia.

“The chemistry of the rock was different than what’s been found before,” said Chris Herd, a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “That’s what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.”

The team said the minerals found came from a single 70-gram slice that was sent to the university for classification and may reveal clues to asteroid formation.

The two newly discovered minerals have since been named elaliite and elkinstantonite.

Herd said the first was named after the meteorite itself, dubbed the “El Ali” meteorite, because it was found near the town of El Ali, in the Hiiraan region of Somalia.

The professor said he named the second mineral after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

“Lindy has done a lot of work on how the cores of planets form, how iron-nickel cores form, and the closest analog we have are iron meteorites,” Herd said. “It made sense to name a mineral after her.”

With the help of researchers at UCLA and the California Institute of Technology, Herd said the meteorite has been classified as an “Iron, IAB complex” meteorite, one of 350 of that type.

Researchers are also continuing to examine the minerals to determine what they can tell about the conditions in the meteorite when it formed.

“I never thought I’d be involved in describing brand new minerals just by virtue of working on a meteorite,” Herd said.

According to Herd, any new mineral discoveries could possibly yield exciting new uses down the line.

“Whenever there’s a new material that’s known, material scientists are interested too because of the potential uses in a wide range of things in society,” Herd said.