January 3, 2012, 8:01 pm
Impossible crystal from outer space
What was discovered?
The irregular arrangement of atoms making up quasicrystals was thought to occur only in laboratory conditions... until quasicrystals were also found by geologists in rocks from the Russian Koryak Mountains.
But how did they get there, since they are made under conditions not usually found on Earth?
Now scientists have suggested that they may have formed in meteorites that crashed to Earth.
A technique called mass spectrometry was used to measure the amount of different isotopes of oxygen found in the rocks.
The pattern of isotopes from parts of the rocks was different from rocks found anywhere on Earth, but resembled the pattern found in meteorites known as carbonaceous chondrite.
Also found in the rocks were types of silica formed only at very high pressures... like those when a meteorite hits the Earth!
Why is it important?
Quasicrystals that do not have regular arrangements of atoms were the fascinating discovery by Daniel Schechtman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2011.
See a video explaining this work (link below)