Inside a huge meteorite that fell to Earth in Somalia, minerals were found that previously had not been found in nature. Two of them were analyzed and named. A possible third is being considered by the International Mineralogical Association. This discovery may give scientists some important clues about the formation of asteroids and meteorites.
The first two discovered minerals were called elaliite and elkinstantonite. Their discovery was announced by planetary geologist Chris Herd from the University of Alberta in Canada.
The meteorite was found in a limestone-rich valley in Somalia near the town of El Ali. At first, the space stone was considered an ordinary boulder weighing 15.2 tons. As it turns out, this is a meteorite, and the ninth largest ever found on the earth’s surface.
The exact date of the fall of this asteroid to Earth has not been fixed. But the rock is locally called Nightfall, and it is also mentioned in folklore, songs and dances for at least 5-7 generations. All this time, the Somalis used it as an anvil for sharpening knives.
In 2019, while searching for opal, prospectors were intrigued by a strange stone with pits, which indicated its unearthly nature. They took some samples and sent them to the University of Alberta geologists. In collaboration with researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and the California Institute of Technology, Chris Herd soon determined that Nightfall was an iron meteorite, and officially named it El Ali after a nearby city.
Unique chemical composition
To classify a meteorite, a team of planetary geologists needed to study the chemical composition, and here everything changed. It turned out that its content had a very unusual texture and composition that had never been found in nature before. Therefore, Herd enlisted the help of a mineralogist at the University of Alberta, Andrew Locock, who participated in the description of other new minerals.
The two minerals studied had an iron-phosphorus-oxygen composition. The mineral elaliite was named after the asteroid El Ali itself. Elkinstantonite was named after planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton from Arizona State University. The third potential new mineral is still undergoing the identification and classification process.
The disappearance of the meteorite
As for the asteroid itself, it was removed from the place where it had been lying for generations and taken to the Somali capital, Mogadishu. There it was weighed, and then it was confiscated by the Somali government. What happened to it after that is unclear. According to Herd, the stone was sold and transported to China, where it may end up in the hands of meteorite dealers who would cut it up and sell it in parts.
Earlier we reported how an Australian tried to spray a meteorite for several years, believing that it was gold.
According to Space Exploration Symposium 2022 and SciTechDaily
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