Mon, 06 Aug 2018
Named “uakitite” after the Uakit region of Siberia where the meteorite was discovered by gold hunters two years ago, the mineral was found by a group that mistook the yellow rock for a rare metal. According to researchers, 98 percent of the Uakit meteorite is an iron alloy called kamacite, which so far has only been found in other meteorites. The other two percent is comprised of minerals that form in space. When the scientists looked at the rock under a microscope, they found tiny uakitite grains 25 times smaller than a grain of rice.
“Unfortunately, we failed to obtain all physical and optical properties of uakitite because of the very small sizes of the grains,” wrote lead researcher and geologist at the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, Victor Sharygin, in an article [PDF] presented during the Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society in Moscow.
Some news outlets published stories that erroneously called uakitite stronger than diamond, but Sharygin says that the hardness of the mineral was not directly measured. It was instead estimated using vanadium nitride (VN), a synthetically produced mineral that closely resembles uakitite. Vanadium nitride has a hardness between 9 and 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, while diamond is at 10. So while uakitite is probably very hard, it has not stolen the crown. If it bears any resemblance to VN’s “light gray colour with a pinky tint in reflected light,” it’s unlikely that it will be appearing in jewelry stores anywhere near you, rarity not withstanding.
The discovery of uakitite is cool, but there just isn’t enough of it yet to really get excited about. Scientists will have to find new ways to obtain data from the tiny sample, or someone will have to find a lot more of it.