Edscottite: Mineral Never Seen in Nature Before Discovered Inside Meteorite from the Molten Core of Long Destroyed Planet

Scientists have discovered a mineral never before seen in nature locked inside an iron space rock found in the Australian outback in the 1950s. The Wedderburn meteorite has been studied for over half a century—yet this is the first time naturally occurring edscottite has been found in it.

The seven ounce red and black iron meteorite was found in Victoria, Australia, just under three miles from the town of Wedderburn. Planetary scientist Geoffrey Bonnin, from the Australian National University, told The Age that the meteorite formed inside the molten core of a planet that was "blasted apart" millions of years ago.

Since it was found in 1951, scientists have taken slices off the Wedderburn meteorite to understand its composition. Now, just 2.5 ounces of the original rock remain—and it is kept in the vault of Museums Victoria. In 2018, Caltech's Chi Ma and Alan E. Rubin from the University of California, Los Angeles, were provided a sample of the meteorite. They were looking to see if it contained any rare minerals.

wedderburn meteorite
The Wedderburn meteorite, which was first discovered in 1951. Scientists have now analyzed a sample taken from the space rock and found it contains a mineral never seen in nature before. Museums Victoria

In their analysis, they discovered the rock contained edscottite. This is a mineral that is known to form during the smelting of iron—but it has never before been found in nature. Unless a mineral is found to form naturally, it does not get an official name. By identifying edscottite in a rock that formed naturally, the researchers were able to name it.

Their findings are published in the journal American Mineralogist.

"The new mineral is named in honor of Edward R.D. Scott, a pioneering cosmochemist at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, for his seminal contributions to research on meteorites," the researchers wrote.

The planet the Wedderburn meteorite came from was probably an ancient planet that had a molten core, Bonning told The Age. He said the planet's would have hot metal dripping down into its center and the heat and pressure from this probably produced the edscottite.

At some point, the planet may have been hit by another planet or moon and was destroyed, with bits of rock flung out into space. Eventually one piece of rock—the Wedderburn meteorite—ended up in the asteroid that sits between Jupiter and Mars. Eventually something knocked it out of its orbital path and it came crashing down to Earth.

Edscottite is just one of a number of minerals that have been identified in meteorites. Last year, scientists in Russia announced the discovery of uakitite, which was found inside a gold-colored iron meteorite that fell in the the Uakit region of Siberia. In 2017, Ma was also credited with identifying three new minerals in the Khatyrka meteorite, samples of which were recovered in 1979 and 2011, a statement about the discovery said.

Correction 09/03, 9.15 a.m. The original article said the hypothetical planet the meteorite came from was outside our solar system, which is not the case.