El Ali: 2 new minerals found in 15 metric ton meteorite that fell in Africa

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Scientists have discovered two never-before-seen minerals in a meteorite weighing 15.2 metric tons (33,510 pounds).

The minerals came from a 70-gram (almost 2.5-ounce) fragment of a meteorite discovered in Somalia in 2020, making it the ninth largest meteorite ever discovered. Press release from the University of Alberta.

Chris Herd, curator of the university’s meteorite collection, obtained samples of the space rock so he could classify it. While he was examining it, he noticed something unusual – some parts of the specimen could not be identified under the microscope. Because Locock had experience describing new minerals, he consulted Andrew Locock, head of the university’s electron microprobe laboratory.

“The first day he did some analysis, he said, ‘You’ve got at least two new minerals,'” Herd, a professor in the university’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, said in a statement. “That’s unique. Most of the time it takes more work than that to say there’s a new mineral.

The name of one mineral – elalite – is derived from the space object itself, called the “El Ali” meteorite because it was found near the city of El Ali in central Somalia.

Herd named the second elkistontonite after Lindy Elkins-Tandon, vice president of Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative. Elkins-Daunton is a Regents Professor in that university’s School of Earth and Space Studies and a NASA Incoming Principal Investigator. Psychological work – A journey of a metal-rich asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, According to the space agency.

“Lindy has done a lot of work on how the cores of planets form, how these iron-nickel cores form, and the closest analogue we have is iron meteorites,” Herd said. “It made sense to name a mineral after her and recognize her contributions to science.”

The International Mineralogical Society’s approval of the two new minerals in November of this year “signals that the work is strong,” said Oliver Shaner, a mineralogist and research professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“Whenever you find a new mineral, the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, were different than what was discovered before,” Herd said. “That’s what makes it so exciting: this particular meteorite contains two minerals that are officially described as new to science.”

Lowcock’s quick identification was possible because similar minerals had been created synthetically before, and he was able to match the composition of the newly discovered minerals to their man-made counterparts, according to a University of Alberta publication.

said Alan Rubin, a meteorologist and former assistant professor and research geochemist in the Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. “They can create new compounds – one, as a research interest to see what’s physically possible, others … “We’re looking for a compound that has some property for some practical or commercial use, like conductivity or high strain. or high melting temperature.

“The chance that a researcher will find a previously unknown mineral in a meteorite or terrestrial rock, then often the same composition has been made by material scientists before.”

Shaner said the two new minerals are phosphates of iron. A phosphate is a salt or ester of phosphoric acid.

“Phosphates in iron meteorites are secondary products: they form by oxidation of phosphides … which are the rare primary constituents of iron meteorites,” he said by email. “So, the two new phosphates tell us about the oxidation processes that occurred in the meteorite material. Whether the oxidation occurred in space or on Earth, after impact, remains to be seen, but as far as I know, many of these meteorite phosphates formed in space. In both cases, water was probably the reactant that caused the oxidation.

The findings were presented at the University of Alberta’s Space Exploration Symposium in November. Rubin said the revelations “broaden our view of the natural materials that can be found and formed in the solar system.”

The El Ali meteorite that contained the minerals appears to have been sent to China in search of a buyer, Herd said.

Meanwhile, researchers are still analyzing minerals to find out what conditions were in the meteorite when the space rock formed — and a third possibility. He added that the newly discovered minerals could have exciting implications in the future.

“Whenever a new material is known, material scientists are also interested because of the potential applications in a wide range of subjects in society,” Herd said.

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