Scientists have discovered something that shouldn’t exist in one of the oldest meteorites we have access to. A “forbidden symmetry” pattern was found in a crystal from the ancient space rock. The pattern shouldn’t be able to exist, but somehow it’s contained in this sample.
According to a news release from Princeton University:
A team from Princeton University and the University of Florence in Italy has discovered a quasicrystal — so named because of its unorthodox arrangement of atoms — in a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite from a remote region of northeastern Russia, bringing to two the number of natural quasicrystals ever discovered. Prior to the team finding the first natural quasicrystal in 2009, researchers thought that the structures were too fragile and energetically unstable to be formed by natural processes.
“The finding of a second naturally occurring quasicrystal confirms that these materials can form in nature and are stable over cosmic time scales,” said Paul Steinhardt, Princeton’s Albert Einstein Professor of Science and a professor of physics, who led the study with Luca Bindi of the University of Florence. The team published the finding in the March 13 issue of the journal Scientific Reports.
This is only the second time such a crystal has been found and the only other example was another grain from the same meteorite.
The discovery could have possible industrial applications for protective and non-stick surfaces.