Two minerals completely unknown on Earth were hiding in a fragment of a meteorite discovered in Somalia in 2020. The researchers originally described a “phenomenal discovery”, and indicated that a third potential mineral would be under study.
The meteorite in questionthe ninth largest ever recorded on earth, was the pride of the inhabitants of the small town of El Ali, in Somalia, since it was unearthed in 2020. But no one could have suspected that this object of extraterrestrial origin of 15 tons and two meters wide, made of iron and nickel, contained a real treasure. After extracting a fragment of about 70 grams from it, then sending it to the University of Alberta (Canada), researchers noticed the presence of two minerals qualified as “unusual”.
Elaliite and Elkinstantonite
While analyzing the meteorite to classify it as an existing rock, Chris Herd, Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and curator of the meteorite collection at the facility, noticed something unusual. ‘unusual. “In this particular meteorite you have two minerals (…) who are new to science“, enthuses the researcher, quoted in a press release. The two minerals were named elaliite and elkinstantonite, in reference to the place where they were found and to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, a NASA researcher working on the exploration project for a metal-rich asteroid: Psyche 16 (read our article). Minerals similar to those discovered were created synthetically in a laboratory in the 1980s, but this is the first time such elements have appeared in nature.
The whole rock remains untraceable
But the story does not end there: a third potential mineral is under study. From this research, scientists hope to learn more about the conditions that prevailed within the meteorite at the time of its formation. “That’s my area of expertise: how to unravel the geological processes and the geological history of the asteroid that this rock was part of.“, continues Professor Herd in the press release. But this single fragment will eventually limit their search, which is why the team hopes to be able to get their hands on the other pieces of the meteorite. According to their information, the rock would have been transported to China, looking for a buyer, it only remains to hope that more samples will be available one day, who knows what they could contain.
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