Researchers found a brand new mineral lodged inside a tiny meteorite found near Wedderburn in central Victoria.
The Wedderburn meteorite was discovered in Victoria, Australia in 1951. But it wasn't until this year that it was announced that edscottite–a mineral previously not found in nature–had been identified in a sample of the Wedderburn meteorite. According to Stuart Mills, Museums Victoria's senior curator of geosciences, "we have discovered 500,000 to 600,000 minerals in the lab, but fewer than 6,000 that nature's done itself."
During a re-investigation of a section of the meteorite housed at the University of California, Los Angeles, Chi Ma and Alan Rubin verified the presence of a new mineral. Edscottite is made of iron and carbon atoms mixed together into a certain pattern. "This meteorite had an abundance of carbon in it. And as it slowly cooled down, the iron and carbon came together and formed this mineral," said Mills. They named it edscottite in honor of Edward Scott, a pioneering cosmochemist at the University of Hawaii. He first identified the unique iron carbide in 1971 while studying the meteorite, but technology hadn't advanced far enough for him to characterize its structure.
Scientists have come across edscottite before–inside smelters. It is one of the phases iron goes through when it is smelted into steel. But they have never seen it naturally occurring. Minerals only get a name when you can find them in nature.
We have found many meteorites, but a meteorite from the core of another planet is extremely rare. How it formed is still unclear. Geoffrey Bonning, a planetary scientist at the Australian National University who was not involved with the study, speculated to The Age that it was blasted out of the core of another planet. The hypothetical planet, he said, formed when asteroids clumped into one big planet. The planet heated up during its formation, and hot metal dripped into its core. Eventually, the planet might've been struck by another astronomical body and destroyed, flinging the debris across the solar system. The debris became the Wedderburn meteorite. The edscottite might've been created when all that metal heated up in the former planet.