New Mineral Discovered Inside A Siberian Meteorite
Uakitite is a mineral that has been found in a single meteorite on earth, the Uakit meteorite, named for the location in which it was found in Russia in 2016. Uakitite is composed of vanadium nitride with formula VN. While the majority of the meteorite is composed of iron and nickel, a small percentage of the meteorite contains minerals that are only found in space, including uakitite. Like other mononitrides.
“Unfortunately,” the researchers wrote in their summary, “we failed to obtain all physical and optical properties of uakitite because of the very small sizes of the grains.” it is estimated to be very hard, however, studying all the properties has proven difficult as the only samples are 5 micrometers in size, many times smaller than a grain of sand.
But that doesn’t mean they got nothing! The researchers were able to determine that uakitite has some structural similarities in common with two other space-forged minerals, carlsbergite and osbornite, both of which are nitrides, containing nitrogen.
The Uakit iron meteorite was found to primarily be composed of Kamacite, a nickel-rich variety of iron found in meteorites. Researchers examined the meteorite and found trace amounts of a mineral we have yet to find and presented their findings at theAnnual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society in Moscow. Uakitite is a collquial name only and has not been approved by the International Mineralogical Association
The labeled Ua in the above diagram shows the mineral from a scanning electron microscope. While 98 percent of the meteorite is composed of kamacite, very trace amounts contain the mineral uakitite.
This allowed them to infer some of the new mineral’s physical properties. If it is like vanadium nitride, it is a light grey colour, with a pink tint in reflected light, and it has a hardness of 9-10 on the Mohs scale.
This puts it at the same level of hardness as the other nitrides, and not quite as hard as diamond, which at a 10 on the scale remains the hardest mineral known.
In order to learn more about uakitite, we’re probably going to need either more advanced technology, or another meteorite containing a lot more of it.
But for now, the researchers can enjoy the discovery at a fundamental level – it’s not every day an entirely new mineral crashes to Earth!
You can read the team’s paper here.