Prospective Russian gold hunters may have been disappointed that the yellow rock they recently found was not made out of gold but scientists are fascinated by the new mineral it contains, as it is the first time it has been observed.
The mineral comes from the Uakit meteorite, named after the zone in which it was found. The new mineral was presented recently at the Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society in Moscow. It has been named uakitite.
Studies have revealed that over 98% of the rock is kamacite, an allow of iron an nickel only encountered in meteorites and forged under extreme temperatures of over 1000 degrees Celsius, according to the researchers. The tea identified uakitite using powerful microscopes and the samples are indeed small: the tiny grains are smaller than 5 micrometers, over 25 times under the size of the average sand grain.
Scientists were unable to determine its physical properties since the fragments are too small. It was determined that it shares features with two other minerals that hail from space: osbonite and carlsbergite. These minerals are also called mononitrides because they contain only one nitrogen atom. Some sources reported that uakitite is harder than diamond but such affirmations are contradicted by the study as the hardness of the mineral cannot be measured directly since the grains are too small. Its hardness has been estimated using artificially produced vanadium nitride which is very similar to uakitite.
The discovery is important, especially if we take into account China’s plans to mine asteroids. If new minerals are found, stronger than what we already have on Earth, a new race will begins as nations will rush to explore the potential benefits of such discoveries, which range from more powerful military devices to possibly safer and cheaper civilian devices.
It remains to be seen what future meteorites can offer us.
Karen and her husband live on a plot of land in British Columbia. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. They are also currently planning a move to a small cabin they hand built. Karen’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Thus sprung Anna’s interest in backyard gardening, chicken and goat keeping, recycling and self-sufficiency.