An old piece of mineral discovered in the Allende meteorite may well be the key in understanding the formation of the solar system. The mineral has been named panguite after Pan Gu.
Gu is a legendary figure in primeval Chinese folklore and is credited with creating the world by separating heaven and Earth from turmoil.
“This is a new material. “It is so rare (that) after my examination I donated the (mineral) to the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution,” said Chi Ma who discovered the substance.
“I thought Pan Gu was the perfect fit. I’m Chinese,” said Ma, a senior scientist at the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at California Institute of Technology.
Nine minerals found
Ma came across panguite while examining the Allende meteorite with a high-resolution scanning electron microscope. In addition to panguite, he discovered allendeite, hexamolybdenum, monipite, tistarite, davisite, grossmanite, hibonite and kangite.
Studying these minerals is crucial to comprehend the processes that led to the formation of the solar system.
“Each of those refractory minerals gives us a window to look at the processes that happened at the beginning of our solar system,” said Ma.
The study of the meteorite “had a tremendous influence on current thinking about processes, timing, and chemistry in the primitive solar nebula and small planetary bodies,” averred Ma.
Ma revealed that Panguite, estimated to be 4.5 billion years old, was formed at a time when the gases turned to solids as the solar nebula began to take shape. Panguite is said to have fallen on Earth near Murchison, Australia, in the year 1969.
“I was totally excited. Now all my time is spent on meteorite studies,” Ma said after his achievement.