Massive Meteorite Contains Never-Before-Seen Minerals


A massive 15-tonne meteorite found in Somalia has revealed at least two minerals never seen in nature before.

This exciting discovery could help scientists understand more about how asteroids form.

The El Ali Meteorite

The El Ali meteorite, as it’s called, contains the minerals elaliite and elkinstantonite.

These minerals were previously only created in labs. This discovery was made from just a 70-gram sample, meaning there might be more surprises in the rest of the meteorite.

Unique Geological Conditions

Professor Chris Herd from the University of Alberta, who led the research, explained that discovering new minerals shows unique geological conditions and rock chemistry.

He presented these findings at the University’s Space Exploration Symposium.

Earth’s Abundance of Minerals

On Earth, the presence of water and oxygen creates more opportunities for elements to combine into minerals.

That’s why we have found more minerals originating here compared to space. Despite this, meteorites like El Ali continue to surprise us.

Naming the New Minerals

Herd named the minerals after the meteorite and Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who is a leading researcher on how planet cores form.

Herd was particularly surprised to find something new in this type of meteorite, as over 350 similar ones are known.

Verification of Findings

Dr. Andrew Locock, a colleague of Herd’s, confirmed the new minerals quickly due to their known lab-created counterparts.

This allowed Herd’s names for the minerals to be accepted swiftly.

Implications for Asteroid Research

Locock’s expertise lies in identifying new minerals, while Herd focuses on understanding an asteroid’s history based on its composition.

Finding new minerals complicates this and will take time to understand how the meteorite’s parent body formed and why these minerals haven’t been seen before.

Historical Use of Meteorite Materials

Humans have used meteorite materials for centuries, like Tutankhamun’s iron dagger.

Herd hopes the new minerals might eventually have practical uses.

Cultural Significance

The El Ali meteorite, known as “Nightfall” in local Saar folklore, was found in 2020.

However, locals had known about it for generations, using it for knife sharpening and celebrating it in songs and dances.

The meteorite, almost 90% iron and nickel, is among the largest ever found.

Economic Impact

Despite its massive size, the meteorite has been moved to Mogadishu and may have been sold to China.

Meteorites of this size are extremely valuable, and Somalia likely benefited financially from its sale.

These findings were shared at the University of Alberta’s Space Exploration Symposium.