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07th Nov 2023

Meteorite found in Somalia contains two minerals not found on Earth

Pretty sure I’ve seen this sci-fi…

A team of scientists say they have discovered two new minerals after analysing part of a 15-tonne meteorite that landed in Somalia.

The meteorite was unearthed in the east African country back in 2020. Local camel herders say knowledge of the meteorite was passed down through generations and the local communities called the meteorite Nightfall in their songs, poems, and stories.

Western scientists called the meteorite El Ali because, perhaps less poetically than the local name, it was found near the town of El Ali, in the Hiiraan region. A 70-gram cut of the iron-based rock was sent to the University of Alberta for classification.

Chris Herd, Professor in the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and Curator of the University of Alberta’s Meteorite Collection, said in late 2022: “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.

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

Herd said the discovery was made in pretty much the first day of analysis, which is reportedly rare for this kind of work. Herd says it usually takes a lot more to determine if there are new minerals in a rock.

Similar minerals had been created in a lab in the 1980s but never recorded as appearing in nature, Herd said.

These new minerals could go on to have real world applications.

If you’re wondering what to call these two minerals, they have been designated elaliite and elkinstantonite.

The first name is an obvious reference to the location of the meteorite’s discovery. The second is actually a tribute to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, vice president of the ASU Interplanetary Initiative, professor at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and principal investigator of NASA’s Psyche mission.

While scientists wanted to conduct further tests on the sample, the meteorite was reportedly acquired by China.

According to the Guardian, meteorites are regularly bought and sold in international markets.