Despite the level of understanding and knowledge the world has about so many things, everyone is still getting excited about new discoveries and this one is no exception. A rare meteorite, which was found in Siberia, contains a crystal, or at least what appears to be a crystal. The mineral itself is quite rare as well and is also a mystery. While crystal is the term used to describe it, no one’s sure what it actually is but here’s what they know so far:
A fair few years ago now, scientists discovered a small piece of a mineral that was created shortly after the solar system, some four and half billion years ago. The mineral was brought to Earth by the Khatyrka meteorite, which landed in Eastern Siberia. Obviously, a 4 billion-year-old mineral would be incredibly interesting to almost anyone, but not so much in this case. It was still quite intriguing but not for its sheer age, as many would expect, but for its atomic structure instead.
The structure that this mineral possesses is one that has never before been found in nature, although it has been created in laboratory environments. It was referred to as a quasicrystal because from the exterior it resembles a crystal, but on the inside, it’s a whole other kettle of fish.
Crystal or No Crystal?
Many people are probably wondering – what constitutes a crystal? A mineral needs to have set properties, specifically with the atomic structure, to be considered a crystal. Namely, it needs lattices. A crystals atoms are arranged in lattice structures, are very predictable, and will just keep repeating themselves. However, while this new mineral may look like a crystal on the outside, it isn’t a crystal on the inside. The quasicrystal did have lattices, however, they were ordered and not consistent and identical. Therefore, it can’t be a crystal, can it?
The atoms were arranged in a variety of different configurations, which, based on human understanding of science and chemical composition, was simply not possible in nature. Yet here it is. Despite quasicrystals being created in labs since the 1960s, many scientists still doubt the fact that they can exist in nature. It is with this in mind that the teams studying the crystal have concluded that it was formed off the planet and traveled here. Even so, if it was formed under astrophysical conditions over 4 billion years ago, it’s still proof that this phase of matter can remain stable over huge periods of time, perhaps even indefinitely.
The discovery of these quasicrystals really puts into perspective how much we think we know as an intelligent species, but also reminds us that we don’t know nearly as much as we think we do. The universe is a huge place with diversity around every corner and there’s still so much more to find out. Researching these quasicrystals would be a good place to start but there’s still so much more still to discover.