Scientists find new mineral in meteorite sample

The Wedderburn meteorite. (Image by Rodney Start, courtesy of Museums Victoria).

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and Maine Mineral & Gem Museum found a rare form of iron-carbide mineral that has never before been seen in nature. They named it edscottite.

The mineral was retrieved from the 210-gram, black-and-red Wedderburn meteorite, which was found in 1951 in the Australian town of the same name located in the southeastern state of Victoria. Ever since it fell from the sky, the alien rock has been studied by scientists and discoveries are frequently done. 

Edscottite was named after Edward R.D. Scott, a  meteorite expert who had identified a formula for the mineral back in the 1970s

Previous analyses had already detected traces of gold, iron, kamacite, schreibersite, taenite, and troilite. Edscottite, however, was recently found after the US researchers received a sample of the meteorite from the Museums Victoria collection.

To uncover the presence of the mineral, the experts led by Caltech mineralogist Chi Ma used an electron microscope and associated probe. In a paper published in the journal American Mineralogist, they explain that edscottite does not occur naturally on Earth but has been produced as a byproduct of smelting and in science labs. Until now, it had been called Fe5C2.

The fact that it was found in the meteorite allows edscottite to be officially recognised by the International Mineralogical Association and get a name, as only minerals that form naturally are accepted by the official body. 

It is believed that edscottite could have formed in the core of a planet with a lot of heat, as the meteorite it came from is likely to have been part of a much larger body that experienced a collision and broke into pieces.