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NASA has announced the discovery of a new mineral inside a "historically significant"* meteorite recovered from Antarctica in December 1969.

The exotic blend of sulphur and titanium was spotted in the 4.5bn-year-old Yamato 691 enstatite chondrite, which may have once formed part of an asteroid orbiting between Jupiter and Mars.

It has a "unique crystal structure that has not been previously observed in nature", according to NASA space scientist Keiko Nakamura-Messenger, who led the research.

The mineral has been dubbed "Wassonite", in honour of John T Wasson, a professor at the University of California, "known for his achievements across a broad swath of meteorite and impact research".

NASA explains: "In 1969, members of the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition discovered nine meteorites on the blue ice field of the Yamato Mountains in Antarctica. This was the first significant recovery of Antarctic meteorites and represented samples of several different types. As a result, the United States and Japan conducted systematic follow-up searches for meteorites in Antarctica that recovered more than 40,000 specimens, including extremely rare Martian and lunar meteorites."

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