In a remarkable scientific discovery, a meteorite that landed near the town of El Ali in Somalia has been found to contain two previously unknown minerals.
This finding, made possible by the research efforts at the University of Alberta and the Electron Microprobe Laboratory, adds to our understanding of the cosmic materials that shape our solar system.
The research process to identify new minerals is typically exhaustive, but in this instance, the identification was expedited because the minerals had been previously synthesized in a lab setting. This allowed researchers to quickly match the compositions and confirm the discovery. The minerals have been named elaliite and elkinstantonite, the latter honoring Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration for her extensive work on planetary core formation.
Elkins-Tanton is also the principal investigator of NASA's upcoming Psyche mission, which aims to explore the mineral-rich asteroid Psyche to glean insights into the origins of planetary bodies. The discovery of these minerals not only underscores the importance of meteorites in scientific research but also highlights the interconnectedness of space exploration and mineralogy.
However, the future of the El Ali meteorite's contributions to science is uncertain. The meteorite has reportedly been transported to China, potentially to be sold. If the meteorite is purchased, it is unknown whether the new owner will permit further scientific analysis.
This discovery serves as a reminder of the vast unknowns that lie beyond our planet and the serendipitous nature of scientific discovery. As we continue to explore the cosmos, each meteorite that falls to Earth has the potential to reveal new secrets about the universe we inhabit.