Researchers in Canada have discovered two new minerals in a meteorite that landed in east Africa, according to a report in The Guardian. The 15-tonne El Ali meteorite was found in Somalia in 2020. It is the ninth largest celestial rock found on Earth at over 2 metres wide, the outlet further said. A 70-gramme slice of the rock was sent to University of Alberta’s meteorite collection for classification where the researchers carried out some tests and were astonished to find the new minerals.
The new minerals have been named elaliite – after the meteor – and elkinstantonite, after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the managing director of the Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative. A potential third mineral is also being looked at.
“Whenever you find a new mineral, it means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, was different than what’s been found before. That’s what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals that are new to science,” Doctor Chris Herd, a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at University of Alberta, said in a statement.
The Guardian said that similar minerals have been synthesised in the laboratory in the 1980s, but scientists never found them appearing naturally. Dr Herd said these new minerals could help understand them how “nature’s laboratory” works.
The researchers will now look into material science applications of the minerals, according to Live Science.
However, future scientific insights from the meteorite could become difficult. The meteorite has now been moved to China in search of a potential buyer, which could limit researchers’ access to the space rock for investigation, the outlet added.
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