Researchers identify new mineral from meteorite

June 29, 2012

A study that was published in the journal “American Mineralologist” details the discovery of a new mineral that has been named panguite, in honor of a an ancient character from Chinese mythology.

The mineral was found in a meteorite that fell to Earth more than 40 years ago over the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua. Chi Ma, a researcher from the California Institute of Technology has discovered a primordial mineral in the space rock: a substance previously unknown to humankind.

Ma has spent years probing a meteorite from 1969. His research has revealed the previously unheard-of mineral, panguite. Ma and his team have determined that panguite is one of the oldest minerals in the galaxy and have estimated the mineral coalesced in space roughly 4.567 billion years ago, making older than the Earth’s solar system.

The mineral’s name comes from Pan Gu, a giant from Chinese mythology who created the Earth and the Sky. After 18,000 years, Pangu was laid to rest where his breath became the wind, his voice, the thunder, his left eye the sun, his right eye the moon, his body the mountains, his bones the valuable minerals, and his bone marrow sacred diamonds.

Panguite’s long history suggests the mineral was present in our solar system long before Earth and the other planets formed. The structure of the mineral could give scientists further insight on the nature of our solar system in its infancy, CBS News reported.

“Panguite is an especially exciting discovery since it is not only a new mineral, but also a material previously unknown to science,” Ma said in a statement.

The meteorite, named Allende, broke into pieces in the sky over Mexico in 1969. Ma and his team used an electron microscope to probe the interior of the space rock. Panguite itself is an interesting mineral, not only for its age but because of its unusal composition. The mineral contains common elements like oxygen and aluminum as well as more exotic ones like zirconium and scandium.

The study was published in the July issue of "American Mineralologist."



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