June 27, 2012
A fireball that tears across the sky is not just a one-time skywatching event — it can reap scientific dividends long afterward. In fact, one that lit up Mexico’s skies in 1969 scattered thousands of meteorite bits across the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua. And now, decades later, that meteorite, named Allende, has divulged a new mineral called panguite.
Panguite is believed to be among the oldest minerals in the solar system, which is about 4.5 billion years old. Panguite belongs to a class of refractory minerals that could have formed only under the extreme temperatures and conditions present in the infant solar system.
The name of the titanium dioxide mineral, which has been approved by the International Mineralogical Association, honors Pan Gu, said in Chinese mythology to be the first living being who created the world by separating yin from yang (forming the earth and sky).