Monday, April 11, 2011

Meteorites yield exciting discovery: alien mineral, 04.11.11

Meteorites discovered on Antarctica in 1969 have recently yielded exciting results using NASA's transmission electron microscope; they are carrying alien minerals.

Image credit: NASA.
Dubbed "wassonite," after professor John T. Wasson from UCLA of meteorite and impact research fame, the mineral has never before been encountered on earth and is valued for its peculiar crystalline structure, which has also never been seen in earth minerals. Comprised entirely of sulfur and titanium, the mineral is less than one-hundredth the width of a human hair, which NASA says is about 50x450 nanometers. Basically, this stuff is tiny.

The tiny veins of wassonite were surrounded by other minerals that have yet to be identified in the meteorite dubbed Yamato 691.

Scientists studying the meteorite hope to glean information about the formation of our solar system. They guesstimate that the meteorite is roughly 4.5 billion years old, and most likely came from an asteroid orbiting somewhere between Mars and Jupiter. They say wassonite is one of the "tiniest, yet most important, minerals identified."

Credit: NASA.

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