A meteorite that fell in Somalia about three years ago, is home to at least two rare elements that are not found on Earth.
The two minerals were identified by scientists at the University of Alberta, a press release explained. Tons of space material enters to our planet's atmosphere every day and burn up instantly.
Very few actually survive the journey through the atmosphere and fell the ground, after which these space stones are referred to as meteorites.
Large meteorites are extremely rare but do occur, such as the one that fell near the town of El Ali (Somalia) in 2020. The celestial piece of rock weighs a massive 16.5 tons (15 tonnes) and yet is the ninth-largest meteorite ever spotted
New elements in the meteorite
A small piece of the meteorite weighing some 2.5 ounces (70 grams) was sent to the University of Alberta for classification, and the meteorologists found two minerals that are not found on Earth.
"Whenever you find a new elements, it means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, was different than what's been found before," said Chris Herd, a professor at the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences as well as the curator of the Meteorite Collection at AU.
Working with scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and California Insitute of Technology (CIT), Herd has classified the meteorite as an Iron IAB complex, which is composed of meteoritic iron and silicate inclusions.
Herd's research was also aided by the Electron Microprobe Laboratory at the University of Alberta, where an initial analysis revealed the presence of the two minerals. Research of this type usually takes a considerable amount of work to confirm the presence of a new mineral.
In this case, 2 minerals identified had been synthetically created before, so the scientists could match their ingredients quickly to confirm their discovery.
Interestingly, there is a 3rd new mineral that is under the process of identification, and its presence can only be confirmed after further analysis of completed.
Names of Elements
The two minerals confirmed so far have been dubbed elaliite and elkinstantonite. The first name comes from El Ali, the closest town where the meteorite was spotted. The second, however, is a dedication to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, a meteorologists at Arizona University's School of Earth and Space Exploration.
"Lindy has done a lot of work on how the cores of planets form, how these iron-nickel cores form, and the closest analog we have are iron meteorites," Herd added in the press release. "So it made sense to name a mineral after her and recognize her contributions to the science."
Elkins-Tanton is the principal investigator of NASA's Psyche mission that is a probe to the Psyche, a mineral rich asteroid, in a bid to understand the origins of the planets within our solar system.
However, this could also be the last we hear about the El Ali meteorite since the celestial rock has reportedly been sent to China in search of a potential buyer. If sold, whether the buyer will allow further samples to be taken for scientific analysis remains unknown for now.
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