As far as we know, minerals do not occur naturally here on Earth.
Canadian scientists discovered the two minerals when they examined a piece of a 15-ton meteorite recovered from Somalia. It is the ninth heaviest meteorite ever discovered on Earth. But new research now shows that weight and size aren’t the only things that make this meteorite so special. The strange stone also appears to contain two minerals that do not occur naturally here on Earth.
Elaliite and Elk Instantonite
Scientists have named the minerals elaliite and elkinstantonite. Minerals were found in a 70 gram piece of the meteorite that was made available to science. This chip may contain another mineral that is not found naturally here on Earth, but which is now being further studied.
The process of discovering the first two “new” minerals went surprisingly smoothly. At first it was scientist Chris Hurd who found something strange in the piece of meteorite. Then he contacted his colleague Andrew Lowcock, who had previously described the new minerals. “And on the first day[Lowcock, ed.]did some analysis, he actually said, ‘You have at least two new minerals here,’” Hurd says. “That was unusual. It usually takes a lot of work to conclude that it contains a new mineral.”
The fact that she went easy this time is easy to explain. Because although both minerals do not occur naturally on Earth, scientists have previously been able to create them in the laboratory. Comparing the new minerals that formed naturally in this meteorite with synthetic minerals led Lowcock to quickly conclude that we were dealing here with minerals that, as far as we know, do not occur naturally on Earth.
This is an exciting finding, Hurd says. “When you find a new mineral, it means that the geological conditions (under which the rock was formed), the chemistry of the rock are unlike anything we’ve seen before. That’s what makes this so exciting. Because in this case we even have two minerals that are new to science.”
Further investigation of the mineral is now underway. Herd and his colleagues hope to find out what they can tell us about the conditions under which the meteorite formed. “This is my line of work,” Hurd says. “To learn the geological processes and geological history of the asteroid of which this rock was a part.”
As mentioned, the thin slice of meteorite that Hurd and his colleagues studied is believed to contain a third, unknown mineral here on Earth. And if scientists gain access to additional pieces of the meteorite, it is not farfetched to find more new minerals there. Whether this will be achieved is highly questionable. According to the latest reports, the meteorite stone was transported to China with the aim of selling it there. It is therefore uncertain whether scientists will be able to access parts of the meteorite in the future.
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