May 20, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Caltech Scientists Found Three New Minerals Inside Unique Meteorite

Mar 08, 2017 06:59 PM EST

Three new minerals found in a tiny sample of Khatyrka meteorite. A mineralogist Chi Ma found the sample from the Koryak Mountains in eastern Russia in 1979 and 2011. In recent years Ma and his team finally able to identify those minerals and those minerals were quasicrystals.

It is the first time in history that researchers are able to prove the existence of quasicrystals. It was thought to be impossible, a quasicrystal is actually a phase of solid matter with symmetries. Ma and his teams from California Institute of Technology(Caltech) have discovered 35 new minerals to date. According to Phys report, those 35 minerals were collected from 32meteorite samples.

International Mineralogical Association(IMA) has listed more than 5,000 minerals until the present and 430 of them were collected from meteorites. Ma has discovered 7 percent of all minerals that has been fetched from meteorites. Newly discovered quasicrystal minerals are Stolperite, Hollisterite, and Kryachkoite. Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature, and Classification of the International Mineralogical Association approved the name of the three new minerals.

Stolperite is named after the honor of Edward Stolper, who was the William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology and Caltech's provost. Hollisterite is named after the honor of Princeton geologist Dr. Lincoln Hollister and kryachkoite for Valery Kryachko who first discovered the samples of the Khatyrka meteorite. Their findings were first published in the journal of Applied Sciences from Technology Networks.

Those samples were analyzed at nanoscales in the nascent field of nano-mineralogy. A beam of high-energy electrons is focused onto a polished sample's surface using high-resolution analytical scanning electron microscope (SEM). Electrons and atoms in a sample interact each other to emit various signals which allow scientists to observe the mineral, to analyze its chemical composition.And crystal structure at a submicrometer scale.

This is the first time researchers found metallic Aluminum inside the meteorite fragment. Director of the Geological and Planetary Sciences division's Analytical Facility at Caltech and leads researcher of this study, Chi Ma said in a statement,“Normally we don't observe such aluminum-rich metal in space rocks because the aluminum would have reacted to form aluminum oxide”. That three mineral-rich meteorite fragment is now at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History with more than 600,000 other specimens.

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