A colossal meteorite found in Somalia is full of surprises. El Ali is named after the meteorite in its harbor located near the town of El Ali. It weighs 16.5 tons (15 tonnes) and is one of the largest meteorites ever found. Scientists researching their composition discovered two new minerals that had never been seen on Earth before.
A research team at the University of Alberta in Canada found the mineral while examining a small 2.5-ounce (70 gram) segment of space rock. The new minerals are named elaliite (for a meteorite near the town) and elkstantonite in honor of Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the principal investigator for NASA’s prospectus..
“Whenever you find a new mineral, it means the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, is different than what was found before,” said geologist Chris Herd, curator of the University of Alberta Meteorite Collection, in a statement on Monday. . “This makes it exciting: In this particular meteorite, you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.”
Herd brought in mineralogist Andrew Locock to help analyze the meteorite, which is now classified as an iron meteorite. Locock quickly identified new minerals by comparing them with similar minerals researchers had created synthetically in lip settings.
“It’s phenomenal,” Herd said. “Most of the time it takes a lot more work than that to call it a new mineral.”
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Herd presented the team’s findings at the University’s Space Exploration Symposium earlier this month. The next step in the research will be to find out what minerals can tell physicists about the formation of meteorites.
While El Ali meteorites have only recently come to the attention of the scientific community, he said they were known to the people of Somalia who traced their origin back at least five generations. Only a small part of the meteorites has been studied. According to Herd, the research team heard that the meteorite had moved to China, where it may be for sale.
Scientists still hope that the hands of the meteorites will prevail. They have already identified a third new mineral possibility and there may be more surprises hidden in the area of the fallen rock. New minerals could be a thing in addition to geology and astronomy. “Whenever there is a new material,” says Herd, “materials training is very important because of its potential use in a wide range of things in society.”
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