In meteorite, Alberta researchers discover 2 minerals never before seen on Earth


A meteorite expert from the University of Alberta was part of a team of researchers that discovered at least two new minerals never before seen on earth.

The discovery was made in a 15-tonne meteorite found in Somalia, the ninth-largest meteorite ever found.

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The two minerals came from a 70-gram piece that was sent to the U of A for classification. A potential third mineral is also being looked at.

“Whenever you find a new mineral, it means that the geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, was different than what’s been found before,” said Chris Herd, a professor in the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and curator of the University of Alberta’s meteorite collection.

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“That’s what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.

“That’s my expertise — how you tease out the geologic processes and the geologic history of the asteroid this rock was once part of,” Herd said. “I never thought I’d be involved in describing brand new minerals just by virtue of working on a meteorite.”

Pictures of the meteorite found in Somalia and the sample analyzed at the University of Alberta. November 2022.

Supplied: University of Alberta

The new minerals have been named elaliite and elkinstantonite. They were identified by Andrew Locock, head of the U of A’s electron microprobe laboratory, because each had been synthetically created before.

Elaliite is named after the meteorite itself because it was found near El Ali, in Somalia. Herd named the second mineral after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, a distinguished planetary scientist.

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The research is being done with UCLA and the California Institute of Technology.

Herd believes more minerals could be found if researchers can obtain more samples but, researchers say the meteorite appears to have been moved to China and its future is unknown.

Pictures of the meteorite found in Somalia and the sample analyzed at the University of Alberta. November 2022.

Supplied: University of Alberta

The meteorite could also reveal clues about asteroid formation, the university said in a news release Monday.

“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,” Herd said.

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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