15-ton meteorite has never-seen-before minerals; may provide clues to asteroid formation

Researchers found two never-seen-before minerals in a massive 15-ton meteorite that may unravel the secrets of formation of asteroids.

Some meteorites come from asteroids, others from comets and some may even originate in the moon itself and even other planets. Consider them “space rocks.” Occasionally, these space rocks enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. The part that survives and hits the Earth is called a meteorite. One such meteorite was unearthed in east Africa in 2020. And what a monster rock it is! It is the ninth largest ever found to date. In size, it is simply gigantic. This 15-ton meteorite was found in Somalia. And now, it may well be on way to solving the mystery of the formation of asteroids. When researchers chopped a 70-gramme piece of this space rock, they discovered two completely new minerals, which were never-seen-before on Earth. These new minerals have been named as “elaliite” and “elkinstantonite.”

“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,” Chris Herd, a professor at the University of Alberta’s Meteorite Collection said in a report. However, there are chances that if researchers try to obtain more samples from this massive meteorite, there might be even more unknown minerals.

How researchers named these newly found minerals from an meteorite

The first mineral “elaliite” got its name from the meteorite itself as it was found near the town of El Ali in Somalia. Chris Herd named the second mineral “elkinstantonite” after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who is the principal investigator of NASA’s upcoming Psyche mission as well as the professor at Arizona State University.

However, such minerals had already been formed synthetically in a lab by French researchers in the 1980s. But this is the first time that they have been found in nature. Researcher says that “That’s my expertise — how you tease out the geologic processes and the geologic history of the asteroid this rock was once part of.”

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