Earth's most abundant mineral lies deep in the planet's interior, sealed off from human eyes. Now, scientists for the first time have gotten a glimpse of the material in nature, enclosed inside a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite. The result: They have characterized and named the elusive mineral.
The new official name, bridgmanite, was approved for the mineral formerly known by its chemical components and crystal structure — silicate-perovskite.
"It is a very exciting discovery," Chi Ma of Caltech and Oliver Tschauner, of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told Live Science in an email.
"We finally tracked down natural silicate-perovskite (now bridgmanite) in a meteorite after a five-year investigation, and got to name the most abundant mineral on Earth. How cool is that?" [Shine On: Photos of Dazzling Mineral Specimens]
The mineral likely resides beneath Earth's surface in an area called the lower mantle, between the transition zone in the mantle and the core-mantle boundary, or between the depths of416 and 1,802 miles (670 and 2,900 kilometers), scientists said.
Scientists have been searching for the mineral for a long time, because in order to identify a mineral one must know its chemical composition and crystal structure, Ma said.
Researchers found the bridgmanite in a meteorite that had fallen to Earth near the Tenham station in western Queensland, Australia, in 1879.