Scientists have discovered two minerals never before seen on Earth inside a massive meteorite in Somalia that could hold important clues about how asteroids form.
The two new minerals were found inside a single 70-gram piece taken from the “El Ali” meteorite that collided with Earth in 2020, weighing 16.5 tons (15 metric tons).
Scientists named the two minerals elaliite after the name of the El Ali meteorite, and elkinstantonite after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, managing director of the Arizona State University Interplanetary Principal Investigator Initiative on the upcoming NASA mission, which will send a probe to the mineral-rich asteroid Psyche for clues. On how the planets of our solar system are formed, according to the specialized scientific site “Life Science”.
In a further clarification of this matter, Chris Hurd, a professor at the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta, said, “When you find a new mineral, this means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rocks, were different from what was found before. This is what makes it so exciting; And in this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals, which are new to science.”
Scientists have classified El Ali as a complex IAB meteorite, a type made of iron meteorite dotted with small pieces of silicate.
During the investigation of the meteorite, details of the two new minerals caught the attention of scientists. By comparing the miners with copies previously made in the lab, they were able to quickly identify them as newly recorded in nature.
The team plans to further investigate the meteorites in order to understand the conditions under which the original asteroid was formed. The team is also looking at materials science applications for metals. However, future scientific insights from the El Ali meteorite may be in jeopardy.
It is noteworthy that the meteorite was transferred to China in search of a potential buyer, which may limit scientists’ access to the investigation of the space rock.