New Minerals Were Discovered in a Meteorite

New Minerals Were Discovered in a Meteorite

New Minerals Were Discovered in a Meteorite

Image of Meteorite in a Sterling Silver Pendant

There aren't many minerals that can say they came straight from a meteorite. Or can they? Recently, two minerals were discovered in a meteorite. But, there is more to the story. In fact, these minerals were created before they were discovered. What does that mean? Let's get into it!

The Mineral and the Meteorite

In 2022, examination of a meteorite uncovered two seemingly new minerals: Elkinstantonite & Elaliite. The first mineral was named after NASA's Psyche mission leader Lindy Elkins-Tanton. The second mineral was named after the location in which the meteor landed, El Ali, Somalia. The meteorite itself was also named El Ali.

Though the meteorite landed in Somalia two years earlier, these new minerals weren't more closely inspected until late 2022. Supposedly, both of these minerals were synthetically created prior to this. In fact, they were created way back in the 1980s, according to Chris Herd, a professor from the University of Alberta and one of the scientists who examined the meteorite.

So, these were created in a lab decades ago, and then they just happen to appear in a meteorite? That's pretty out there! Well, sort of.

Image of Three Iron Meteorite Pendants

Mineral Classification

If these minerals were already known to exist after being created in a lab, then how come they weren't classified as minerals back in the 80s? It does seem kind of surprising, but there is a simple explanation. For either of these to be classified as minerals, they have to be naturally occurring. This comes directly from the IMA's mineral guidelines, "A mineral substance is a naturally occurring solid that has been formed by geological processes."

Prior to this, according to the IMA's nomenclature, they would likely have been classified as "hypothetical" minerals. As the name indicates, these are minerals that might exist in nature, but they haven't been proven to.

Thus, until 2022, both Elkinstantonite and Elaliite were seen as only hypothetical; they were known to exist in a lab, but until we could find them in nature, they couldn't be classified as minerals.

So, what if only Elaliite was found in the meteor? In that case, only Elaliite would be on the fast track for being qualified as a true mineral. Elkinstantonite, in this alternate scenario, would still have its hypothetical or synthetic status.


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The Wrap Up

Minerals can be discovered in strange ways, huh? First it was made, then it was actually find. We aren't sure how common this is, but we wouldn't be too surprised if this wasn't the first time it happened! Thank you so much for reading!


Ernest H. Nickel, Joel D. Grice. The Ima Commission on New Minerals And Mineral Names: Procedures And Guidelines On Mineral Nomenclature, 1998.

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