Mars mosaic courtesy of NASA

Washington, DC— Carnegie’s Yingwei Fei is the namesake of an iron-titanuim oxide mineral discovered in a meteorite that originated on Mars. Caltech’s Chi Ma announced the find this week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Called Feiite, with a composition of Fe3TiO5, the mineral formed during a violent impact on the Red Planet that sent the rock hurtling into space. During the event its molecular architecture was rearranged by a shock wave resulting in extreme pressure, which formed a new crystalline structure. A chunk was ejected and eventually crashed to Earth, where it was studied by Ma using electron-beam and synchrotron techniques.

The name was selected in recognition of Fei’s many significant contributions to high-pressure mineralogy and mineral physics.

“This is quite an honor,” he said. “For over a century, Carnegie experimental petrologists and mineralogists have been at the forefront of mineralogical research. I am proud to join the list of Carnegie researchers with minerals that bear their names.”

The Perseverance rover, which recently landed on Mars, will eventually return samples to Earth for study. But for now, earthbound scientists interested in studying Martian rocks in detail are limited to probing the rare meteorites from the Red Planet.

Ma’s research uncovered several previously unknown minerals, including Feiite, which provide new insight into impact processes on Mars, and could also inform our understanding of high pressure and temperature mineralogy on Earth.

“This is a much-deserved acknowledgement of Fei’s impressive legacy in the high-pressure research community,” said Michael Walter, the Deputy Director of Carnegie’s Earth and Planets Laboratory. “His work has helped us understand so much about our own planet’s geologic history, so it is fitting that his name is now part of the quest to understand the processes that shaped our neighbor, Mars.”

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Earth/Planetary Science