Scientists have found a new type of mineral inside a meteorite, that itself was originally recovered in 1969.
The new mineral, dubbed Wassonite, was discovered inside the Yamato 691 enstatite chondrite meteorite by American researchers from NASA as well as scientists from Japan and South Korea. That meteorite was recovered from Antarctica 42 years ago.
NASA says the mineral inside the meteorite is likely in the neighborhood of 4.5 billion years old. They used a transmission electron microscope to discover it, since it forms in only small quantities, In this case, the piece they found is less than one-hundredth the width of a human hair -- 50 by 450 nanometers. The meteorite may have originally been part of an asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.
Wassonite is a mineral formed from only two elements, sulfur and titanium, yet it possesses a unique crystal structure that has not been previously observed in nature, said Keiko Nakamura-Messenger, space scientist at NASA, in a statement.
The name is in honor of former UCLA professor, John T. Wasson, who was known for his research in meteorite studies. Soon after the discovery, the team added Wassonite to the list of 4,500 officially approved by the International Mineralogical Association, which approved the name.
Wassonite may not be the only new mineral. According to the researchers, there were additional unknown minerals in the meteorite currently being investigated. More secrets of the universe can be revealed from these specimens using 21st century nano-technology, said Nakamura-Messenger.
Meteorites, and the minerals within them, are windows to the formation of our solar system, said Lindsay Keller, space scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, in a statement. Through these kinds of studies we can learn about the conditions that existed and the processes that were occurring then.
The meteorite was one of several found in 1969 by the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition in Antarctica. It was the first major discovery of Antarctic meteorites. Since then Japanese and American researchers have performed systematic follow-ups and sought out more. They have found some 40,000 of them, including extremely rare Martian and lunar meteorites.