Researchers have discovered new types of crystal hidden in tiny grains of perfectly preserved meteorite dust. The dust was the remainder of a space rock that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, nine years ago.
On February 15th, 2013, an asteroid of 59 feet across and weighing 12,125 tons entered Earth’s atmosphere at roughly 41,600 mph.
Fortunately, the meteor exploded roughly 14.5 miles (23.3 kilometers) above the city of Chelyabinsk in southern Russia, raining the surrounding area with tiny meteorites and averting a single colossal collision with the surface.
In a recent study, researchers studied a few of the tiny fragments of space rock found after the meteor exploded, also called meteorite dust. Generally, meteors create a small amount of dust as they explode. However, the tiny grains are lost to scientists as they are either too tiny to find, dispersed by the wind, tumble into the water, or are polluted by the environment.
After assessing the dust with more powerful electron microscopes, the researchers discovered a lot about these crystals.
However, “finding the crystals using an electron microscope was rather challenging due to their small size,” the researchers wrote in their paper, which was published on May 7th in The European Physical Journal Plus.
Additional analysis through X-rays indicated that the crystals were made of layers of graphite (it’s a form of carbon developed from overlapping sheets of atoms), enclosing a central nanocluster at the center of the crystal.