TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A professor at the University of South Florida made a groundbreaking discovery after analyzing a dirt sample that was struck by lightning in New Port Richey.

His discovery — a new phosphorus material found for the first time in solid form on planet Earth.

“We have never seen this material occur naturally on Earth,” said Professor of Geosciences, Matthew Pasek. “Minerals similar to it can be found in meteorites and space, but we’ve never seen this exact material anywhere [here on Earth].”

According to a recent study published in Communications Earth & Environment, and shared by USF, Pasek examined how high-energy events, like lightning strikes, can cause unique chemical reactions resulting in materials.

“When lightning strikes a tree, the ground typically explodes out and the surrounding grass dies,” Pasek said.

The electricity forms a “scar” in the surrounding soil and sends electric discharge through nearby rock, soil, and sand, forming fulgurites, also known as “fossilized lightning.”

When a New Port Richey homeowner discovered the “lightning scar” underneath a tree that had been struck by lightning, they dug up the fulgurite and sold it online. Pasek bought the fossilized lightning about 10 years ago and began his study.

“I’ve been suggesting for 15-20 years that there’s probably a solid form of this in rocks somewhere… and there was,” Pasek said.

When asked if the formation of the material could be common during lightning strikes, Pasek said, “It could be. We do find materials like these spheres in a number of different lightning strikes so I would bet for certain that there are other occurrences like this in lightning strikes and probably beyond that.”

While Pasek said it’s unlikely the material could be mined for uses similar to other phosphates, such as fertilizer, there are plans to further investigate the material to see if it could be officially declared a mineral.

According to Pasek, it’s important to understand how much energy lightning has because then we know how much damage a lightning strike can cause on average and how dangerous it is. “Florida is the lightning capital of the world and lightning safety is important – if lightning is strong enough to melt rock, it can certainly melt people too,” added the researcher.