A team of researchers from the University of Alberta discovered at least two new minerals never before seen on Earth in a 15-ton meteorite that landed in east Africa.
Unearthed in Somalia in 2020, the meteorite is the ninth largest ever found. When researchers sliced off a two-ounce section of the space rock, they found two new minerals named "elaliite" and "elkinstantonite." Details about the minerals remain limited.
"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," Chris Herd, a professor in the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and curator of the University of Alberta's Meteorite Collection, said in a press release.
Western researchers called the space rock "El Ali" because it was discovered near the town of El Ali, in the Hiiraan region of Somalia.
Herd said the two new minerals were discovered on the first day the sample was analyzed. He said, "most of the time, it takes a lot more work than that to say there's a new mineral."
Similar minerals had been synthetically created in a lab by French researchers in the 1980s but never found in nature.
Herd also said these new mineral discoveries could one day benefit humanity:
"Whenever there's a new material that's known, material scientists are interested too because of the potential uses in a wide range of things in society."
Reports show the space rock has been shipped to China as meteorites are often bought and sold on international markets.