Ancient “anvil” turned out to be a meteorite with previously unknown minerals

(ORDO NEWS) — On the outskirts of the city of El-Ali (Somalia), for many years, a large rusty stone lay near the well. Local shepherds knew about it well, as they often came here to quench their thirst and water their animals.

They used the boulder as an anvil, its smooth metal surface perfect for sharpening blades in the field. But the most interesting thing about this stone is its history, which was passed down by Somali shepherds from generation to generation. According to the legend, the boulder fell from the sky.

And it turned out to be true! According to scientists, the boulder really turned out to be a meteorite that arose at the dawn of the formation of the solar system. A recent study showed that he brought three minerals to our planet at once that are not found on Earth. All of them contain information about events,

What is known about the El Ali meteorite

Miners from a small mining company discovered a meteorite in 2019. The stone immediately attracted their attention, as it was smooth, large and had the color of rusty metal. When it was hit with a hammer, there was a characteristic ringing sound, as when hitting a metal surface.

Despite the fact that the local population has long known about this meteorite, it has not been scientifically documented. When the Somali government refused to buy the find, the mining company exported the meteorite to China, where it remains to this day.

By the way, the buyer for the ancient meteorite could not be found to this day. But small samples of it were sent to scientists for further analysis and confirmation that the boulder is actually a meteorite.

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Scientists discover minerals unknown to science in meteorite fragments

The meteorite was named El Ali, that is, in honor of the city where it was found. It turned out to be the ninth largest of all meteorites ever discovered on Earth, and its weight is about 15 tons.

The stone is mainly composed of iron and nickel, like many other meteorites that originated from the cores of broken asteroids or planetesimals, which have a core similar to that of our planet.

Space crystals inside a meteorite

One of the sections of the meteorite fell into the hands of the curator of the meteorite collection of the University of Alberta, Chris Hurd. While studying it, he noticed several crystals that had an unusual composition.

Further analysis showed that the composition and structure of these crystals had never been found in nature before, so they are unknown to science.

The scientist named one of the minerals elalite, in honor of the meteorite itself, and the second – elkinstantonite, in honor of Lindy Elkins-Tanton, a planetary scientist, the principal investigator of NASA‘s upcoming Psyche mission, which will study the metallic asteroid.

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The mineral olsenite, one of three minerals found in the El Ali asteroid

The third mineral was identified by employees of the California Institute of Technology. It was named olsenite, after the late Edward Olsen, former curator of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Edward Olsen once suggested the existence of a mineral that now bears his name.

Is the origin of the solar system “encrypted” in minerals?

The minerals found in the meteorite are contained in the form of small inclusions. Scientists are still figuring out the exact conditions under which they formed.

But the very fact that they are scattered throughout the meteorite, and not concentrated in one place, allows researchers to draw some conclusions now.

Minerals crystallized in the meteorite not gradually, but over time, as the metal solidified. The three new minerals were formed when almost all of the metal had already cooled down, leaving only tiny molten droplets. Ultimately, they also crystallized, forming these inclusions.

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The El Ali meteorite could theoretically originate in the asteroid belt

The general chemical composition of the rock shows that the cooling process most likely did not take place in the core of the asteroid, as happened with most other iron meteorites. The metal likely crystallized near the planet after colliding with other solids.

The bodies that collided could be the cores of shattered asteroids, or perhaps they were space rocks known as chondrites, which contain a significant amount of metal mixed with the rock.

Either way, the objects collided at incredibly high speeds, causing them to melt. Similar collisions occur in our time in the asteroid belt, where the speed of objects exceeds 18,000 kilometers per hour.

“The study of meteorite mineralogy is “armchair study of the solar system” in many ways. We are trying to limit the diversity of conditions that have existed on different planetary bodies,” says Chris Hurd.

More detailed information about the minerals and the meteorite itself probably appeared after additional research. As for its future, it remains in question. Somali scientists demand that the government return the stone to the country.

But, it is quite possible that it will be sold to a third party, while the Somali government will receive part of the money from its sale.


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