Image: Justin Mcmanus
Scientists are in a tizzy. They believe that they have found a new mineral embedded within a meteorite. It was found in Central Victoria near the town of Wedderburn. The scientists are of the opinion that the mineral was most probably created inside the burning core deep inside a distant planet destroyed ages ago.
The black and red meteorite has scars all over it after its journey through space for perhaps more than a million years. The scientists have named the mineral found inside it as edscottite. Scientists found the mineral after a minute examination of the meteorite. This Wedderburn meteorite is small, just the size of a lemon and was found way back in 1951. It is now part of the collection of Museums Victoria.
Meteorites are regularly found all over the world as we are constantly bombarded by particles from outer space. Most of them burn out as they enter the atmosphere and all we see are streaks of light as they burn out. But what is unique about the Wedderburn Meteorite is that it has come from the deepest core of an exploding planet.
Scientists have for years tried to examine it. But its small size has proved to be a hindrance. It originally weighed a minuscule 220 grams when it was first discovered. Of that, just 71 grams remain within the vault of the museum. Slices of the meteorite were cut for research.
A team of scientists from CalTech, USA obtained a piece of the meteorite in 2018 and studied it for new minerals. As scientists studied the mineral composition of the tiny slice of the meteorite, they found an unknown material, just a little bit of it. Under any microscope, it looked like minute white crystals.
They discovered that the mineral was a combination of carbon and iron atoms combined in a pattern hitherto unknown to them. They called it edscottite in honor of Edward Scott, who was a leading cosmochemist at Hawaii University.
According to Dr. Stuart Mills, who is a senior curator in the field of geosciences at Museums Victoria, the meteorite had a lot of carbon inside it. As it cooled down after the fiery explosion that destroyed the planet from which it originated and its fiery journey through the atmosphere, it combined with the iron atoms and this mineral, christened edscottite, was formed.
Scientists have seen this mineral inside smelters where iron was converted into steel at extremely high temperatures. But they were artificially created, even if by accident. This happens to be the first instance when this material has been found in a natural state. And thus scientists were able to name it.
According to Dr. Mills, only 6000 minerals have been found occurring naturally of the nearly 600,000 discovered by the scientists. But what has intrigued the scientists was the fate of the planet from which this meteorite came. Planetary scientist Geoffrey Bonning at Australian National University believes it just exploded.
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The core of this particular planet became too hot at the core and exploded, and edscottite, like other minerals, which form at extreme temperatures, was formed. This happened to many planets when the solar system was just being formed.
Most of the rubble created from such an explosion is strewn all over the solar system, a lot of it floating around in a massive asteroid belt that lies between Jupiter and Mars. The meteorite that landed in Wedderburn was also a part of this system for millions of years until a collision turned it hurtling towards earth.