A meteorite that fell in Somalia in 2020 contains two minerals that are not found on our planet. These two minerals have been identified by researchers at the University of Alberta.
Tons of cosmic material enter the Earth’s atmosphere every day and burn up instantly. Very few survive the journey through the atmosphere and hit the ground, and scientists call these space rocks meteorites.
Large meteorites are rare, but there was one that fell near the city of El Ali in Somalia a couple of years ago. The heavenly piece of rock weighs 16.5 tons and yet is the ninth largest meteorite ever found.
Two new minerals in a meteorite
A small piece of the meteorite weighing about 70 grams was sent to the University of Alberta for classification, and the researchers found two minerals not found on Earth.
Working with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Caltech, Hurd classified the meteorite as an IAB iron complex, which is composed of meteoric iron and silicate inclusions.
Hurd’s research was also aided by the Electron Microprobe Laboratory at the University of Alberta, where initial analysis indicated the presence of two minerals.
This type of research usually requires a significant amount of work to confirm the presence of a new mineral. However, in this case, the two identified minerals were created synthetically, so the researchers could quickly match their compositions to confirm their discovery.
Interestingly, there is a third new mineral that is under consideration, and its presence can only be confirmed after further analysis is completed.
The two minerals confirmed so far have been named elaliite and elkinstantonite. The first name comes from El Ali, the nearest city where the meteorite was found. However, the second stone was named after Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration researcher Lindy Elkins-Tanton.
Elkins-Tanton is the principal investigator on NASA’s forthcoming mission to the mineral asteroid Psyche to establish the origin of the solar system’s planets.