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wedderburn meteorite

Researchers confirm existence of mineral in meteorite never found before in nature

An exclusive mineral has been discovered roadside in a remote gold rush town of Australia, Wedderburn which is 214 kilometers north of Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne. Earlier, it was a hotspot for the researchers and miners and it still is, although occasionally but nobody there had ever seen a lump like this.

A small 210-gram piece of weird-looking stone was found just north-east of the Wedderburn town in 1951. Named as the Wedderburn, researchers have been trying to solve its mysteries and they just decoded another. Scientists examined the Wedderburn meteorite and confirmed the first natural occurrence of the mineral called ‘edscottite‘ which is a unique form of an iron-carbide mineral which has never been found in nature. The work appears in the American Mineralogist journal.

The unique black-and-red rock has been investigated to the extent that only one-third of the original specimen remains intact within the geological collection at Museums Victoria, Australia since the Wedderburn meteorite’s spacey origins were first detected. The rest of the rock was taken away to investigate the substances the meteorite is made of. Those investigations have shown traces of gold and iron, along with uncommon minerals such as kamacite, schreibersite, taenite, and troilite and now edscottite can be added to the list.

The discovery is named in honor of Edward Scott – meteorite expert and cosmochemist from the University of Hawaii. It is important because this specific atomic formulation of iron carbide mineral was never before confirmed to occur naturally. For official recognition by the International Mineralogical Association (IMA), this confirmation is important as it is an essential requirement for minerals.

An artificial kind of the iron carbide mineral produced during iron smelting has been well-known about for years. Edscottite is now an official element of the exclusive IMA’s mineral club and it is due to the research by Chi Ma and UCLA geophysicist Alan Rubin. Stuart Mills, Museums Victoria senior curator of geosciences who wasn’t engaged with the new study, said that they have discovered 500,000 to 600,000 minerals in the research lab out of which only 6,000 were identified as naturally occurring minerals.

In regard to how this sliver of natural edscottite was found outside of rural Wedderburn is not yet clear but the mineral could have formed in the heated, pressurized core of an ancient planet according to planetary scientist Geoffrey Bonning from Australian National University, who wasn’t involved with the study. Bonning said that some kind of colossal cosmic collision could have occurred a long time ago involving this unfortunate edscottite-producing planet and another planet, or a moon, or an asteroid and been exploded apart, with the fragmented parts of this wrecked world being hurled across time and space. It is believed that one such part landed just outside Wedderburn after millions of years which has enriched our knowledge of the Universe.

Research Paper: Edscottite, Fe5C2, a new iron carbide mineral from the Ni-rich Wedderburn IAB iron meteorite