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Scientists discovered two new minerals never before seen on Earth inside a large meteorite, a finding that could hold important clues about how space rocks form, Live Science reported.
Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada came across the minerals inside a single 2.5-ounce slice taken from the 16.5-ton El Ali meteorite which was found in 2020 in Somalia.
They were able to quickly identify the minerals as new by comparing them with similar synthetic versions that had previously been made in a lab.
The team explained that El Ali was a type of meteorite made from meteoric iron flecked with tiny chunks of silicates – known as an “Iron, IAB” complex meteorite.
The new findings were named elaliite – after the meteor – and elkinstantonite after Lindy Elkins-Tanton: She is the principal investigator of NASA’s upcoming Psyche mission, which plans to send a probe to investigate the mineral-rich Psyche asteroid for evidence of how our solar system’s planets formed.
Researchers are planning to also analyze the space chunks to determine the conditions under which the meteorite formed.
They are also looking for ways as to how the unique minerals could be used on Earth, USA Today noted.
“Whenever there’s a new material that’s known, material scientists are interested, too, because of the potential uses in a wide range of things in society,” Chris Herd, curator of the University of Alberta’s Meteorite Collection, said.