Cosmos

Meteor That Came From the Core of an Alien Planet Leads to Never-Before-Seen Material Discovery

The newly-found material was embedded within this meteorite. Image Credit: The Wedderburn meteorite. Museums Victoria/CC BY 4.0.

Scientists have discovered a meteorite which they believe originated from a distant alien planet. That on itself is a pretty amazing discovery. But inside this meteorite, researchers have reported discovering an entirely new mineral.

Meet edscottite

Its not every day that scientists report discovering an entirely new mineral. One that has never-before-been seen in nature, embedded within a meteorite that crashed in the distant past into our planet.

The space rock collided and remained hidden near Wedderburn in Central Victoria, Australia until researchers finally came across it.

The material is so strange, that experts believe the mineral was likely forged in the very core of an ancient planet that has since disappeared.

Although the meteorite was discovered half a century ago, only now has it revealed its secrets.

It is not quite kryptonite, but the mineral revealed its alien origin after scientists analyzed a piece of the lemon-sized meteor. Although we have found many meteorites that have originated from distant parts of space, a meteorite from the core of a distant alien planet is beyond rare.

Over several decades, scientists were eager to grab their hands on the space rock in order to analyze and study it, the reason why only 71 grams of the original 220-gram rock remains at the museum.

A Caltech team managed to get a small chunk of the alien rock in 2018, to see if it contained rare minerals.

What they found was not only unexpected but a Eureka! moment for geology.

Inside the meteorite, sandwiched between other layers of minerals, the researchers found a thin fragment of a new material that, under the magnifying glass of a microscope, resembled small white crystals.

Blasting origins

They discovered that the mineral was made of iron and carbon atoms mixed in a certain pattern. This new mineral was called edscottite, in honor of Edward Scott, a pioneer cosmochemist at the University of Hawaii.

The scientist revealed that the meteorite fragments they analyzed showed a high abundance of carbon inside it. “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,” revealed Dr. Stuart Mills, Museums Victoria’s senior curator of geosciences.

This is not the first time that scientists have discovered the material they now named edscottite. In fact, they’ve encountered it before within smelters since it is one of the phases that iron goes through when smelted to be turned into steel.
However, the big difference here is that edscottite was never found in nature.
“We have discovered 500,000 to 600,000 minerals in the lab, but fewer than 6,000 that nature’s done itself,” Museums Victoria senior curator of geosciences Stuart Mills, who wasn’t involved with the new study, revealed in an interview with The Age.

The origins of natural-occurring edscottite are blasting. Literally. According to planetary scientists Geoffrey Bonning, a member of the Australian National University who was not involved in the new study, the mineral most likely formed inside the pressurized, heated vore of a long-gone planet.

Speaking to the Age, Bonning explained that the edscottite-bearing planet probably suffered an apocalyptic collision with either another planet, moon or asteroid, literally breaking the planet apart. As the alien world explored, fragmented chunks of it rained throughout the solar system.

Then millions of years later, after having crashed unsuspectingly into Australia’s Wedderburn, the meteorite was excavated and half-a-century later, it revealed part of its cosmic mystery.

The space rock–or what remains of it–is now housed at the Victoria Museum.

A study presenting the discovery was published in American Mineralogist.

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