The new mineral was discovered within the meteorite officially designated Yamato 691 enstatite chondrite
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.
This composition is similar to that expected from partial melts of enstatite chondrites
, a rare type of meteorite that formed at high temperatures in highly reducing (low oxygen) conditions in the inner solar system.
Scientists had thought that most of the bodies that merged to make Earth formed from a narrow zone in space and were similar to each other, belonging to a subclass of meteorites called enstatite chondrites.
They compared these to meteorite samples, particularly enstatite chondrites and another type called enstatite achondrites.
The results suggest that a mixture of chondrites, rather than enstatite chondrites alone, probably combined to create the Earth.
This spectrum was then compared with that of meteorites found on Earth that have been extensively studied in the laboratory and only one type of meteorite, enstatite chondrites, was found to have properties that matched Lutetia over the full range of colours.
Enstatite chondrites are known to be material that dates from the early Solar System, and they are thought to have formed close to the young Sun and to have been a major building block in the formation of the rocky planets, in particular the Earth, Venus and Mercury.