Login with your Social Account

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

oriented meteorite

Researchers identify the reason behind the shape of the meteorites

Meteoroids from the outer space have random shapes, but when many of them land on earth as meteorites, they are found to be carved as cones. Researchers have identified the physics involved in flight in the atmosphere that causes this transformation.

The progression was discovered by a series of replication experiments conducted in the Applied Mathematics Lab of New York University. It involves melting and erosion during the flight which finally results in an ideal shape as meteoroids pass through the atmosphere. The study has been reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Leif Ristroph, assistant professor in New York University and also the leader of the study said that slender or narrow cones flip over, tumble but the broader ones flutter and move back and forth. They discovered a family of cones which fly perfectly straight with their apex leading. These ‘Goldilocks’ cones with exact right angles perfectly match the shapes of the eroded clays obtained from the experiments and of real conical meteorites. He said that identifying the relation between the shape of an object and its ability to fly straight revealed the cause of why many meteorites landing on Earth are cone-shaped. It has been a mystery for a long period of time about the forces behind the strange shapes of meteorites which survive the flight through the atmosphere and land on Earth.

Ristroph explains that the shapes of the meteorites differ in space since they are melted, eroded and reshaped due to their journey through the atmosphere. Many meteorites are randomly shaped, nearly 25 percent are ‘oriented meteorites’ which look very similar to perfect cones.

Researchers including Jun Zhang, physics and mathematics professor at Courant Institute and NYU Shanghai replicated the travel of meteorites through outer space with the help of clay objects attached to rod as “mock meteorites” which eroded while passing through water. These clay objects were finally carved into cones with the same angularity as the conical meteorites.

The limitations of the experiment were that unlike the clay objects, the real meteoroids are not fixed and they can freely rotate or tumble. This raised the question that what made the meteorites keep a fixed orientation for reaching Earth.

The team included NYU undergraduates, Khunsa Amin and Kevin Hu and a doctoral student, Jinzi Huang. They conducted additional experiments where they examined how cones of different shapes moved through water. Here they found that the narrow cones flip over while the broader ones flutter. The “just right” cones moved straight.

Ristroph says that these experiments reveal the origin behind the oriented meteorites. Aerodynamic forces melt and reshape the meteoroids in their flight, while also stabilizing the posture so that a cone shape is carved on reaching Earth. This interesting message about the composition and structure of meteorites can give us more information about the universe.

Reference: Khunsa Amin el al., “The role of shape-dependent flight stability in the origin of oriented meteorites,” PNAS (2019)

Man Keeps Rock For Years Thinking It's Gold. Turns Out It's a Super Rare Meteorite

Man kept a rock for years thinking it’s Gold but it turned out to be Super Rare Meteorite

David Hole in 2015 found a heavy reddish rock which was resting in yellow clay. He found this while prospecting in Maryborough Regional Park near Melbourne. He made every efforts to open it in the hope of finding gold nuggets inside the rock since the Australian gold rush peaked in the 19th century in Maryborough.

For cracking it, he used rock saw, angle grinder even a sledgehammer but all efforts went in vain since there was no gold nugget in it. He later discovered it to be a rare meteorite. 

Dermot Henry, Melbourne museum geologist said that it had a sculpted, dimpled look. It is formed when it comes through the atmosphere, where they melt on the outside as atmosphere sculpts it. He said that in his 37 years of experience at the museum he identified only two of the offerings to be genuine meteorites. David Hole took the ‘rock’ to the Melbourne Museum for identification and it turned out to be a meteorite. If you saw a rock on Earth like this, and you picked it up, it shouldn’t be that heavy

Researchers have published a paper to describe the 4.6 billion-year-old meteorite which has been named as Maryborough after the town near which it was found. The study has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria

 It weighs 17 kilograms and has a high composition of iron which makes it an H5 ordinary chondrite. There are small crystallised droplets of metallic minerals throughout it which are known as chondrules

Henry says that meteorites provide the cheapest method of space exploration. They provide clues to the formation of the solar system. Some of them provide information about the interior of the Earth. Some contain ‘stardust’ which is older than the solar system showing us the formation of stars. There are also rare meteorites which contain amino acids that are the building blocks of life. 

Researchers do not know exactly where the meteorite came from or how long it is present on Earth. Our solar system was a spinning pile of chondrite rocks and dust. Gravity pulled this material to form planets while the leftovers ended up in an asteroid belt. Henry explained that this meteorite might have come from the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. It crashed on Earth leaving the belt due to collisions between asteroids. 

Carbon dating suggests that it has been on Earth between 100 and 1000 years. It is much rarer than gold and is one of the 17 meteorites recorded in the Australian state Victoria. It has the second largest chondritic mass behind the 55-kilogram specimen found in 2003. It is quite amazing that this space rock got identified however it is not the first one to have an amazing story. One space rock took 80 years to make it to the museum after being through two owners. 

Journal Reference: Royal Society of Victoria