A meteorite discovered in Antarctica in 1969 has just divulged a modern secret: a new mineral, now called wassonite. The new mineral found in the 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite was tiny — less than one-hundredth as wide as a human hair. Still, that was enough to excite the researchers who announced the discovery Tuesday (April 5). "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," NASA space scientist Keiko Nakamura-Messenger said in a statement.
The mineral's name, approved by the International Mineralogical Association, honors John T. Wasson, a UCLA professor known for his achievements across a broad swath of meteorite and impact research. Grains of Wassonite were analyzed from the meteorite that has been officially designated Yamato 691 enstatite chondrite. Chondrites are primitive meteorites that scientists think were remnants shed from the original building blocks of planets. Most meteorites found on Earth fit into this group.