Somalia meteorite: Scientists find two new extraterrestrial mineralstext_fields
Canadian researchers have found two new minerals in a meteorite that landed in Somalia in east Africa. The celestial rock - named El Ali - was found in 2020 and weighed 15 tonnes.
El Ali is the ninth-largest meteorite recorded by Western scientists. While it was unearthed in 2020, local camel herders say they have known of it for generations. Somalians have named it Nightfall in their songs and poems, reported The Guardian.
The University of Alberta received a 70 gm slice of the rock for classification. Experts were pleasantly surprised to find the new minerals - elaliite and Lindy Elkins-Tanton. The first is named after the meteorite itself and the second is named after the managing director of the Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative. A potential third mineral is also being searched.
They can also provide clues to the formation of asteroids. NASA's Psyche mission is also probing the mineral-rich rock for clues to how our solar system's planets are formed. The original rock has been moved to China for a potential buyer. Once sold, researchers' access will be limited.
Doctor Chris Herd said finding a new mineral means that the actual geological conditions and the chemistry of the rock were different than what's been found before. "That's what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals that are new to science." He added that these samples will help experts understand how nature's laboratory works.
The newly found minerals have been synthesised in the lab back in the 1980s but they have never been found to appear naturally. Experts are also looking into the material science application of the minerals.
El Ali is an Iron IAB complex meteorite, a type made of meteoric iron flecked with tiny chunks of silicates. Experts are keen to investigate the conditions under which the parent asteroid is formed. "I never thought I'd be involved in describing brand new minerals just by virtue of working on a meteorite. 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 told Live Science.