Huge meteorite lands with two materials never seen before on our planet

A 15-tonne meteorite found in a sparsely-populated region of Somalia contains two minerals never seen before on our planet, scientists say.

A third, as-yet unidentified mineral, is being analysed by researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada.

The meteorite, reportedly the ninth-biggest known to have reached the Earth’s surface, was found two years ago, but it’s only now that the two mystery elements have been identified.

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Professor Chris Herd who curates the University of Alberta's meteorite collection, explained: “In the course of doing the classification — describing this new rock for science — I came across some inclusions, some potential different, interesting minerals inside the meteorite".

“What we’ve now discovered," he says, "is there are at least two new minerals in this meteorite from Somalia that have never been discovered before”.

He stressed the importance of the find, saying: “Most people in my profession will go through their career and not even find one new mineral. Here, just by virtue of examining this meteorite… we came across two”.

The new minerals have been named elaliite and elkinstantonite.

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The name Elaliite comes from the district of El Ali in Somalia, where the monster space rock was found, while elkinstantonite takes its name from NASA expert Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who was the project leader on a mission to explore the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche.

Professor Herd told the BBC: "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 are iron meteorites. So it made sense to name a mineral after her and recognise her contributions to science”.

He added that the brand-new elements offered exciting prospects for future inventions: ”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”.


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