These "sky debris," known as meteoroids, hurtle through space, occasionally entering Earth's atmosphere where materials begin to burn. These "shooting stars" are meteors. Most of them are destroyed before they reach the surface of the earth, but some survive the fall. Known as meteorites, these rocks that have fallen to earth are the dream of scientists. Meteorites indicate the chemical composition of the universe. Interestingly, the meteorite that fell to Earth and landed in Somalia in 2020 contains two new minerals that do not exist on our planet.
The meteorite in query is the 9th biggest ever located at a whopping 15 tonne (16.five U.S. ton). It became determined close to El Ali, a city with inside the Hiiraan location of Somalia. A 2.five-ounce piece of the distance rock became taken as a systematic pattern and despatched to the University of Alberta. There it became analysed with the aid of using Chris Herd, a professor with inside the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and curator of the University of Alberta’s Meteorite Collection. Herd commenced to decipher the meteorites composition.
“Whenever you discover a new mineral, it manner that the real geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, became specific than what’s been determined before,” he says. “That’s what makes this exciting: In this specific meteorite you've got got formally defined minerals which are new to science.”
Hurd's results classified the meteorite as an example of an "iron, IAB complex," of which 350 were found. Although other similar meteorites have been studied, this small piece of rock contained two previously unknown minerals. Minerals are the elements, or compounds, that make up the building blocks of rocks. Think of quartz or feldspar, which are common minerals. However, the two newly discovered minerals do not occur naturally on our planet. It usually takes some time to confirm whether the mineral in a meteorite is actually new; However, they were easy to compare because scientists had previously synthesised them artificially. The third mineral may also be of a new type, but more research is needed to confirm this.
Andrew Lockock, head of the university's electron microprobe laboratory, helped Hurd identify the new minerals. The compounds were named elaliite and elkinstantonite. The former is named for the town near the meteor crash site, while the latter is named for Lindy Elkins-Tanton, vice president of ASU's Interplanetary Initiative, professor in Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Studies, and director of the upcoming Psyche mission NASA, is named.
“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,” Herd explains.
The meteorite may contain even more mysteries of the cosmos; However, it may be logistically difficult to study in the future. The large stone has already been brought to China in search of a private sale and the prospective owner may not wish to take any more samples. However, research on this small fragment and other meteorite materials stored at the university continues. Hurd says, "Whenever a new known material emerges, materials scientists are also interested in its potential use in diverse sectors of society."