Have you ever heard of elaliite and elkinstantonite?
You’re certainly not alone if you haven’t—because they were just recently discovered on Earth! Scientists IDENTIFIED two minerals that have never been seen on our planet from a slice of meteorite that was discovered in Somalia in 2020. The meteorite, weighing in at 33,510 pounds, is the ninth-largest meteorite ever found!
The two new minerals were found in a small slice of the meteorite that was sent to the University of Alberta for study and classification. There is a third potential mineral being considered as well. Chris Herd, a professor in the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and curator of the University of Alberta’s Meteorite Collection, believes that more new minerals might be found in additional samples of the meteorite!
“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,” says Herd. “That’s what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.”
Elaliite gets its name from the meteorite itself, which is called the “El Ali” meteorite, because it was found near the town of El Ali.
The other mineral, elkinstantonite, is named after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, vice president of ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative. Herd said that Elkins-Tanton has done a lot of work in the field and it made sense to recognize her contributions.
Andrew Locock, head of the University of Alberta’s Electron Microprobe Laboratory, was brought in to help analyze the sample from the meteorite. Herd said Locock’s rapid identification was possible in this case because the minerals were previously synthetically created, meaning scientists have created the minerals in a lab before. This meant that Locock was able to match the composition of the newly discovered natural minerals with the human-made minerals scientists had already created.