The asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk (Russia) almost a decade ago led to over 1,000 people getting injured, and parts of buildings from six cities crashed down. Luckily, nobody died, but the event was still important enough to make astronomers take asteroid detection more seriously. That superbolide measured 19 meters in diameter.
But it seems that not everything about the Chelyabinsk asteroid was bad. Meteorite dust left behind by that space rock was perfectly preserved, and it shows traces of a unique type of crystal that scientists have never seen before, according to livescience.com.
Finding the new types of crystals under a microscope
Crystals present in the meteorite dust are made of layers of graphite and they feature either one of two shapes: “almost spherical” and quasi-spherical. It was enough for scientists to use a standard microscope to find traces of the unique type of crystals in the meteorite dust. However, electron microscopes that are more powerful, as well as X-ray analysis, were needed to complete the work.
It’s unknown how the new crystals were able to form, but there is a hypothesis. Scientists believe that the breaking apart of the Chelyabinsk asteroid itself is to blame, as it might have generated enough heat and pressure in order to give birth to the crystals.
Even five years after the Chelyabinsk asteroid hit Russia, NASA was announcing that it was leading efforts when it comes to planetary defense.
This is what Kelly Fast, who is the manager of the NEO Observations Program of NASA, was saying back in 2018, as quoted by the space agency’s official website:
Thanks to upgraded telescopes coming online in recent years, the rate of asteroid discovery has increased considerably,
Over 8,000 of these larger asteroids are now being tracked. However, there are over twice that number still out there to be found.
The new research was published in The European Physical Journal Plus.