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Scientists confirm the discovery of a mineral that has never been seen in nature



It was found off the road in a remote Australian town with gold. In the old days, Wedderburn was a hotspot for researchers – sometimes it still is – but no one had ever seen a nugget like this.

The Wedderburn meteorite, discovered just northeast of the city in 1951, is a small 210-gram piece of strange-looking space rock that fell from the sky. For decades, scientists have been trying to decipher his secrets, and researchers have simply deciphered another.

In a new study led by the Kaltech mineralogist, Chi Ma, scientists analyzed the Weatherburn meteorite and verified the first natural occurrence of what they call "eskottit": a rare form of iron-carbide mineral that has never been discovered in nature.

Ever since the cosmic origin of the Wedderburn meteorite was first identified, the distinctive black-and-red rock has been studied by numerous research teams – to the extent that only about one – a third of the original specimen still remains intact, stored in the geological collection at the Victoria Museums in Australia.

The rest is taken in a series of slices extracted to analyze what the meteorite was made of. These analyzes reveal traces of gold and iron, as well as rarer minerals such as camacite, shreibersit, taenite and troilite. We can now add edscottite to this list.

The discovery of eskotite – named in honor of meteorite and cosmochemistry expert Edward Scott of the University of Hawaii – is important because we have never before confirmed that this excellent atomic formulation of a naturally occurring iron carbide mineral .

Such confirmation is important because it is a necessary condition for the minerals to be officially recognized as such by the International Mineralogical Association (IMA).

A synthetic version of the iron carbide mineral has been known for decades – a phase obtained during the melting of iron.

But thanks to a new analysis by Chi Ma and UCLA geophysicist Alan Rubin, escapism is already an official member of the IMA Mineral Club, which is more exceptional than you might think.

"We have discovered 500,000 to 600,000 minerals in the laboratory, but less than 6,000 that nature has made alone," Victoria Senior Geological Surveyor Stuart Mills, who did not participate in the new study, told the Museums The Age .

As to how this crowd of natural eskotitis ended up just outside rural Wedderburn may not be known for certain, but according to planetary scientist Jeffrey Boning of the Australian National University who was not & # 39; t related to the study, the mineral could have formed in the heated, pressurized nucleus of an ancient planet.

Long ago, this unfortunate, eskotic planet may have undergone some colossal cosmic collision – involving another planet, or moon, or asteroid – and detonated separately, shattering fragments of this shattered world over time and space, Bo said The Age .

Millions of years later, thinking is that such a fragment landed accidentally just outside Wedderburn – and our understanding of the universe is richer for him.

The findings were reported in by American Mineralogist .


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