The two minerals found come from a single 70-gram piece sent to the Canadian University
A team of researchers discovered at least two new minerals never before seen on Earth. The surprise find was in a 15-ton meteorite found in Somalia, which has become the ninth-largest meteorite on record. Now researchers at the University of Alberta will try to identify and name the two substances that have never been seen on Earth before.
In this context, Chris Herd, professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and curator of the Meteorite Collection at the University of Alberta. He noted, “Anytime you find a new mineral, it means the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, were different from what had been found before.” Likewise, he added that the two minerals in the meteorite make the discovery even more exciting and new to science.
What did they call the new minerals?
According to what the University of Alberta released, the two minerals found are from a single 70 gram piece that was sent to the Canadian University for classification and apparently there is a third potential mineral that would be considered if the researchers had more have obtained samples of the massive meteorite, there is a possibility that even more minerals could be found.
For example, the two newly discovered minerals were named elaliite and elk instantonite. The first gets its name from the meteorite itself, nicknamed the “El Ali” meteorite because it was found near the town of El Ali, in Somalia’s Hiiraan region. Separately, Herd named the second mineral after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, vice president of ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative, professor at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, and principal investigator for the upcoming mission: NASA Psyche.
“Lindy has done a lot of research on how the cores of planets form, how these iron and nickel cores form, and the best analogy we have is iron meteorites. So it made sense to name a mineral after him and recognize his contributions to science,” explains Herd.
This is how the El Ali meteorite is classified
Working with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the California Institute of Technology, Herd classified the El Ali meteorite as an “iron IAB complex” meteorite, one of more than 350 in that particular category. While Herd was analyzing the meteorite to classify it, he noticed something that caught his attention. Also added was the experience of Andrew Locock, head of the Electron Microprobe Laboratory at the University of Alberta, who has been involved in other descriptions of new minerals, including Hermanite-(Ce). “The first day he did some analysis, he said, ‘You’ve got at least two new minerals there,'” says Herd. “That was great. It usually takes a lot more work than that to say there’s a new mineral.”
Locock’s rapid identification was possible because the two minerals had previously been synthetically created, making the composition of the newly discovered natural minerals similar to their man-made counterparts. While the meteorite’s future remains uncertain, Herd said researchers have received word that it appears to have flown to China in search of a potential buyer, so it remains to be seen whether additional samples can be collected for scientific purposes.