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Scientists discover two new minerals in meteorite

Scientists have discovered two new minerals from samples of a meteorite discovered in Somalia in 2020, researchers from the University of Alberta, in Edmonton confirmed on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of University of Alberta
Scientists have discovered two new minerals from samples of a meteorite discovered in Somalia in 2020, researchers from the University of Alberta, in Edmonton confirmed on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of University of Alberta

Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Scientists have discovered two new minerals and possibly a third in a meteorite discovered in Somalia in 2020, researchers from the University of Alberta, in Edmonton confirmed on Wednesday.

The two minerals came from a single 2.4-gram slice of the meteorite, which was officially discovered two years ago. Locals near the town of El Ali, in the Hiiraan region of Somalia had known about its existence for decades.

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"Whenever you find a new mineral, it means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, was different than what's been found before," University of Alberta Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences professor Chris Herd said in a statement.

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

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Confirmation of the two new minerals took only a day of analysis.

"That was phenomenal. Most of the time it takes a lot more work than that to say there's a new mineral," said Herd.

Researchers are continuing to examine the minerals to determine what they can share about conditions in the meteorite when it formed.

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Herd, who also heads up the university's meteorite collection, said if researchers were to obtain more samples from the massive meteorite, there's a chance that even more elements might be discovered.

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The meteorite has reportedly been moved to China in search of a potential buyer and it remains to be seen whether additional samples will be available for scientific purposes.

Researchers named the two new minerals elaliite and elkinstantonite. Elaliite refers to the name of the town near where the meteorite was discovered. The second name is a tribute to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the vice president of Arizona State University's Interplanetary Initiative and a principal investigator on NASA's Psyche mission.

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"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 recognize her contributions to science," Herd said in a statement.

Herd, with help from researchers at UCLA and the California Institute of Technology, classified the El Ali meteorite as an "Iron, IAB complex" meteorite, one of over 350 in that particular category.

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