Somalia Meteorite - Researchers Discover Two New Extraterrestrial Minerals
After analyzing a piece of the 15-ton Somalia meteoritethat crashed in east Africa, a team of Canadian scientists claims to have identified two new minerals, with a third in the works. The meteorite, the seventh biggest reported at nearly 2 meters wide, was uncovered in Somalia in 2020, but local camel herders believe it was well known to them for years and titled Nightfall in their songs and ballads.
Dr. Chris Herd, a curator of the collection and professor in the department of earth and atmospheric sciences, said that he had come across some "strange" minerals when sorting the rocks. Andrew Locock, who runs the university's electron microprobe lab, was tasked with looking into it after being contacted by Herd.
However, El Ali was the name given by Western scientists to the alien rock since it was discovered close to the town of El Ali in the Hiiraan area. The University of Alberta's meteorite collection received a 70-gram sample of the iron-based meteorite for identification.
They name it Nightfall, and claim that it has been referenced in songs, dances, and poetry for at least five generations. Knives are sharpened with it now. The new minerals have been given the names elaliite and elkinstantonite.
Their identification was made by researchers at the University of Alberta who studied a chunk of the 15-ton meteorite (approximately 90% iron and nickel) that weighed in at just 70 grams. Elaliite recognizes the meteorite's discovery site in Somalia's El Ali area, while elkinstantonite is named for NASA astrogeologist Lindy Elkins-Tanton.
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.- Prof Chris Herd, University of Alberta
A third, as-yet-unnamed mineral, is being investigated by the university's experts who now seek to get their hands on more of the meteorite - not just to see what else they could uncover, but also how it might be utilized on Earth.
Herd noted that similar minerals had been synthesized in the 1980s in the lab but had never been recorded as occurring in nature, and he speculated that the new minerals might help shed light on the inner workings of "nature's laboratory" and have applications not yet imagined. The data on a third mineral with undiscovered potential is now being analyzed.
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.- Prof Chris Herd, University of Alberta
The research team will now investigate the minerals' potential material science applications. Future scientific findings from the meteorite, though, may be challenging. Somalia meteorite has been sent to China in the hopes of finding a buyer, although this might reduce the amount of time scientists spend studying the space rock.