Asteroid news: Mineral ’never seen before in nature' discovered inside Australian asteroid


A metallic meteorite spotted in southern Australia in 1951 has been found to contain the first natural discovery of an iron and carbon mineral. The iron and carbon-rich mineral is also formed during the smelting process which makes steel from iron — but to be recognised officially, minerals must form naturally. Researchers have named the newly-confirmed mineral “edscottite”, after the pioneering cosmochemist Dr Edward Scott.

The meteorite is believed to have originated from the remains of a planet following a cosmic collision with another celestial body.

The fist-sized metallic meteorite was discovered close to Wedderburn in Victoria, Australia in 1951.

Only around a third of the originally 210g asteroid remains intact within the collections of the Museums Victoria.

The remains have been sliced up for scientific analysis.

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The mineral is produced during the iron smelting process which manufactures steel.

However, a mineral has to be found naturally before it can be official recognised as such by the International Mineralogical Association.

Dr Mills added: “We have discovered 500,000 to 600,000 minerals in the lab, but fewer than 6000 that nature’s done itself.”

Australian National University planetary scientist Geoffrey Bonning, who was not involved in the present study, believes the Wedderburn meteorite was once part of an ancient planet.

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This body, he suggests, “got blasted apart” — likely in some kind of collision with another planet, moon or asteroid.

Previous studies had revealed the meteorite contained traces of iron and gold, along with rarer minerals including kamacite, schreibersite, taenite and troilite.

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Caltech mineralogist Chi Ma and University of California geochemist Alan Rubin discovered tiny slivers of an iron carbide mineral never before seen in nature.

The space scientists wrote: “The new mineral is named in honour of Edward (Ed) R. D. Scott, a pioneering cosmochemist at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, for his seminal contributions to research on meteorites.

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Viewed through a scanning electron microscope, edscottite appears as tiny white crystals, in thin slivers between the surrounding asteroid rock.

This crystal shape is unusual compared to the other two carbon-rich minerals — cohenite and haxonite — found in iron-based meteorites.

This is the consequence of edscottite quickly forming after the original matter became supersaturated in carbon.

Dr Stuart Mills, senior curator of geosciences at Museums Victoria said: “This meteorite had an abundance of carbon in it.

“As it slowly cooled down, the iron and carbon came together and formed this mineral.

Artificial edscottite has been known to exist for several decades.

The mineral is produced during the iron smelting process which manufactures steel.

However, a mineral has to be found naturally before it can be official recognised as such by the International Mineralogical Association.

Dr Mills added: “We have discovered 500,000 to 600,000 minerals in the lab, but fewer than 6000 that nature’s done itself.”

Australian National University planetary scientist Geoffrey Bonning, who was not involved in the present study, believes the Wedderburn meteorite was once part of an ancient planet.

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This body, he suggests, “got blasted apart” — likely in some kind of collision with another planet, moon or asteroid.



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