Tag Archives: mineral

Mineral never before seen in nature is discovered in a meteorite from 1951

Working on a meteorite first discovered in 1951, a group of researchers has now found a rare form of an iron-carbide mineral never before seen in nature. The finding is the key prerequisite for the new mineral to later be officially recognized as such by the International Mineralogical Association (IMA).

Wedderburn Meteorite. Source: Victoria Museum

The Wedderburn meteorite was found in a small town with the same name in Australia. Researchers have been working on it for decades to figure out the secrets behind it. Now, a group lead by mineralogist Chi Ma has decoded another one with the new mineral.

Only a third of the original meteorite remains intact at the Museum Victoria in Australia. The rest was divided into a series of slices and used to analyze the content of the meteorite. The analysis showed traces of gold and iron, as well as other rare minerals such as kamacite, taenite and troilite.

Now we can add a new mineral to that list, known as ‘edscottite’ in honor of meteorite expert and cosmochemist Edward Scott from the University of Hawaii. It’s a significant discovery as never before researchers had been able to confirm that this atomic formulation of iron carbide mineral occurs naturally. Previously, only the synthetic form of the iron carbide mineral was known.

“We have discovered 500,000 to 600,000 minerals in the lab, but fewer than 6,000 that nature’s done itself,” Museums Victoria senior curator of geosciences Stuart Mills, who wasn’t involved with the new study, told The Age.

There’s not much clarity yet on how the natural edscottite ended up outside of Wedderburn in Australia. But the first theories are already available. Planetary scientists Geoffrey Bonning, a researcher at Australian National University, believes the mineral could have formed in the core of an ancient planet.

A long time ago, this planet could have produced a big cosmic collision that involved another planet or moon or asteroid. The blast would have led to fragmented parts of the world travel across time and space, according to Boning. This would explain the finding of the fragment in Wedderburn.

The findings were published in American Mineralogist, part of the Journal of Earth and Planetary Materials.

The Science of Manufacturing Supplements

Nutritional come in all shapes and sizes. Some vitamins are pressed into pill form, taken as liquids, mixed into foods and even offered as injections. Herbal formulas are concentrated into extracts, turned into green juice powders, or blended into smoothies. Many of the foods you eat also have nutritional enrichments and fortifications; depending on the dietary choices you make, these can be important sources of micronutrients too. 

Vitamins and minerals, herbs, and targeted formulas are the three main classifications into which nutritional supplements fall. Although the categories overlap – most green superfood supplements tout their high vitamin and mineral content, for example – they differ in how they’re manufactured and administered.

The Making of a Vitamin Supplement

Supplements cover a wide range of nutritional needs, but not everything that is part of a supplement is a vitamin. Nutritionists term only 13 compounds vitamins. They include vitamins A, C, D, E and K as well as the numbered B-complex vitamins, folate, biotin, and pantothenate. B-complex vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble, and the rest are fat-soluble. Manufacturers of multi-vitamins must take solubility and bio-availability into account when preparing pressed tablets or capsules. 

After ordering raw materials from distributors and checking certificates of analysis to ensure uniformly high quality, vitamin supplement manufacturers then blend ingredients according to a proprietary formula. Depending on whether the product is meant to be a pill, liquid or powder, the formula might also contain inert, food-grade binders and fillers to hold the finished product together or keep it flowing freely. Throughout the process, quality assurance personnel sample batches of the product and analyze it for the proper proportions of active ingredients. 

Natural vs. Synthetic Vitamins

Debates continue about the relative merits of naturally sourced vitamins and those synthesized in a lab. Proponents of natural and organic supplements say nature’s methods are always better, but research suggests the answer isn’t always so straightforward.

Some vitamins are identical whether they come from organic sources or are created from their constituent ingredients. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, has a relatively simple molecular structure that’s the same whether it comes from oranges and rose hips or is derived from glucose. Pure ascorbic acid, then, is equally effective whether it has a natural or a synthetic source. 

Some synthetic vitamin supplements may be more effective for some people than others. Vitamin B9, otherwise known as folate, is essential to proper neural tube development. It’s also available as a precursor called folic acid. While the majority of people who take it can readily convert folic acid into folate, that may not be true of everyone. In Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. James A. Greenberg recommends the more bio-available L-methylfolate supplements over folic acid for women who have a history of early births in their family. On the other hand, for those who do metabolize it efficiently, folic acid is roughly 85 percent bio-available compared to 50 percent bio-availability for naturally occurring folate, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Folate Fact Sheet

For at least one vitamin, peer-reviewed studies have shown that natural sources are currently better. In an article published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, scientists found that synthetically created vitamin E was in a form that was safe but less effective than naturally ocurring vitamin E. The difference is a slight change to the molecular structure of the vitamin, making some of it pass through the body instead of being in a usable form. Naturally derived vitamin E was approximately 1.4 times as effective, dose for dose, as its synthetic counterpart. 

These guidelines hold true for the pure forms of vitamins, but supplements are usually mixed with fillers, binders or other active ingredients. Some market themselves as all natural while others blend synthetically derived and naturally sourced ingredients. Talking with your family physician or a licensed nutritionist will help you decide on which vitamin supplements are right for you. Before purchasing, you should also consider doing some online research into the marketing of the supplement you wish to purchase. There are many supplement websites, which provide you with the best market choices based on criteria such as ingredients, value and pricing, manufacturer claims, user feedback and more.

Forms of Vitamin Supplements

From convenient pills to easy-to-swallow liquids, your vitamin supplements are there for you in multiple forms to suit your needs. 

  • Pills: The most common form of vitamin supplement, pressed pills are designed with portability and ease in mind. Multi-vitamins most often come in pill form because it’s the easiest way to blend and administer ingredients. Solubility is an important consideration with vitamins in pill form, so look for the USP label on vitamins. This label means the pill has been tested and proven to dissolve in the stomach. 
  • Powders: Vitamins in powder form often come with additional supplements such as protein or herbs. Some people prefer powders to pills as they’re easier to sprinkle on food or mix into drinks, but they can be more of a challenge to portion properly.
  • Capsules: Made of soluble gelatin, capsules dissolve more rapidly than pressed pills. The fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamin E, typically come in a liquid capsule form. These clear, soft capsules are easy to swallow or apply topically to your skin as an anti-aging treatment.
  • Gummy and Chewable Vitamins: A newer entry into the realm of vitamin supplements, gummy vitamins contain the same active ingredients as other formats, but they’re suspended in a tasty, chewy gelatin base instead of a pressed pill or powder. Gummy and chewable vitamins are especially popular with kids but keep them out of reach so children don’t eat them like candy. 
  • Liquids: In liquid form, vitamins are easy to take and digest quickly. They’re also simple to mix into foods and drinks. To make dosage easier, some manufacturers put out single-use ampoules of liquid vitamins, while others supply a calibrated dropper for accurate measurement.
Vitamins, Minerals and Safety 
When taken as directed by your physician, vitamins and multi-vitamin supplements with minerals are generally safe, but there are important precautions to keep in mind. Fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K, remain in your system longer and can build up in your body’s tissues. If you take blood thinners or certain other medications, talk to your doctor about possible interactions with vitamin E and vitamin K supplements, recommends the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Herbal Supplements from Farm to Pharmacy

Vitamins are far from the only supplements you might find in your kitchen. Dietary supplements have become a multi-billion-dollar industry, and herbal formulas are a big part of that burgeoning business. While vitamins and minerals are more of a known quantity, the benefits of herbal preparations vary greatly based on what the formula contains, what it’s supposed to do, and how it’s taken. Another difference between vitamins and herbal supplements is that herbal formulas are typically targeted to address a particular health concern, while multi-vitamins are designed to promote overall health. 

Botanical sources for healing are as old as human history. Since ancient times, physicians have known about the ability of willow bark to bring down a fever or chamomile to calm. It wasn’t until recently that researchers began to discover the compounds in herbal remedies that made them effective. Willow bark, for example, contains a compound similar to aspirin. 

In some cases, powerful drugs have been derived from organic sources. Digoxin, a potent medication that helps regulate and strengthen heart rhythms, comes from digitalis, commonly known as foxglove. Because herbs can also have medicinal effects, it’s important to take these supplements as directed and inform your physician of everything you take to avoid interaction with other medications. 

Herbal remedies come in numerous forms, but the most popular include the following types: 

  • Herbal Pills and Capsules: Like vitamins, herbs can be milled into fine powders and pressed into tablets or enclosed in gelatin capsules. For herbal supplements that have a strong taste, pills and capsules can make remedies more palatable. Garlic supplements, for example, can have a marked taste that would affect a drink powder, but they’re easy to take in capsule form. 
  • Liquids: For herbs that have a pleasant flavor or don’t tolerate drying and grinding well, liquid concentrates can be an excellent choice. Some supplements are designed for mixing in drinks, while others are intended for sublingual use. With a calibrated dropper, this form of supplement is easy to take or to give to people who have trouble with pills.
  • Drinks and Powders: A new way to incorporate botanical supplements is in powdered drink mixes. Green juice powders and protein blends that contain herbs can be enjoyed alone or in other drinks such as smoothies or teas.

Herbal Supplement Safety

By taking herbal supplements instead of over-the-counter or prescription medications, many people feel they’re getting a gentler and more natural form of an active ingredient, but not all herbs are the same. Some plants grow with a greater concentration of active ingredients during some seasons than others, so dosage may be different from batch to batch. The efficacy of herbs has also not been as thoroughly tested as a medication that has gone through full FDA approval. Herbal tonics and supplements designed to support overall health may also contain caffeine or other stimulants, so read ingredient lists carefully. 

The Harvard Heart Letter makes the following recommendations when choosing an herbal supplement: 

– Try one-ingredient supplements to learn what works well for you. Single ingredients are also more likely to be targeted at your specific health concerns, so you’ll quickly learn if the product does what it’s intended to do for you. 

– Discuss herbal supplements with your physician to avoid any potential interactions with medicines or other supplements you already take. 

– Buy products with the USP or NSF label. The U.S. Pharmacopeia mark shows that the product has been tested for quality, uniformity and purity. The NSF stamp assures you that the supplement contains exactly what the ingredient list shows. 

Nutritional Supplements

The third category of supplement includes all the protein powders, juice concentrates and other products that contain macronutrients as well as micronutrients and botanicals. These products are designed to add nutritional value to your daily diet and typically contain calories, unlike vitamins and herbal supplements. 

Protein Powders and Smoothies

Protein is essential to building muscle tissue and maintaining good health, yet not everyone gets enough protein through diet alone. Supplements could be the answer here, and the protein in them comes from a wide range of sources to fit any dietary need. Whey protein is the most common form, but for those who don’t include dairy products in their diet, peas, rice, hemp and soy are other alternatives.


In addition to the protein itself, most protein drink mixes also contain ingredients to improve the taste and texture, including soluble fiber to thicken the drink and flavors to give it variety. Some powders contain sugars, including fructose and glucose, that could increase the calorie count and provide more food energy. That isn’t necessarily a drawback if you’re bulking, but if you’re enjoying protein powders as part of a weight maintenance plan, you may want to be aware of the calorie count. 

Some powders are meant to be blended with water, milk or soy milk by themselves. Others are intended to sprinkle into a smoothie to add nutritional value to it. A pre-sweetened or flavored mix, for example, may not work well in an already sweet and flavorful fruit smoothie. Read ingredient labels carefully to find a product that matches how you plan to use it. 

Total Nutrition Formulas

Protein powders that also contain botanicals, vitamins and minerals claim to offer total nutrition in a glass. They’re convenient for athletes who are actively training and for busy professionals but keep an eye on how these supplements work with any other formulas you might be taking. Doubling up on fat-soluble vitamins could give you too much of a good thing, and interactions between herbal supplements or other medications could have an impact on your health. If you’re looking to a total nutrition product as a meal replacement, talk with your doctor first to verify that this choice is a healthy one for you. 

The Science of Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements can have a powerful protective effect for anyone who’s missing vital nutrients, but the science is less clear about what other kinds of nutritional supplementation can do for you. Evidence for the value of omega-3 supplements derived from fish oil or flax suggest some protective value for your heart, while calcium supplements are known to help protect against bone density loss and osteoporosis. However, a recent study concluded that the most popular vitamins and supplements have no health effect at all. Ultimately, though, supplements are meant to add to what’s already there. Supplements aren’t substitutes, as Harvard’s Health Review points out, so it’s important to eat a balanced and varied diet of whole foods whenever possible.

Most popular vitamin and mineral supplements provide no health benefit

A new study found that the most common and popular supplements simply don’t do anything for you, with the exception of folic acid for reducing stroke risk.

Instead of supplements, researchers suggest implementing a healthy diet.

There are many misconceptions about vitamins and dietary supplements, and often times, product advertisements don’t really have the science to back them up. Vitamins and minerals, in particular, have long been used to treat nutrient deficiencies, and in recent years, a wide array of supplements has been hailed as a means for overall health and longevity. But is this really the case? A new study says ‘no’.

The study reviewed 179 trials on vitamin and mineral supplement use published in English from January 2012 to October 2017. They found that multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C — the most common supplements — showed no advantage or added risk in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke or premature death. Even researchers were surprised to see just how little of a difference these supplements made.

“We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume,” said Dr. David Jenkins, the study’s lead author. “Our review found that if you want to use multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium or vitamin C, it does no harm – but there is no apparent advantage either.”

The one thing which seemed to work as intended was folic acid. Folic acid is a B-complex vitamin needed by the body to manufacture red blood cells. A deficiency of this vitamin causes certain types of anemia (low red blood cell count). Researchers found that acid supplements may reduce both cardiovascular disease and stroke risk.

“Folic acid administration and the reduction of cardiovascular disease through stroke seen in the Chinese CSPPT trial provides the only example of cardiovascular disease risk reduction by supplement use in the period following the Preventive Services Task Recommendation,” said Jenkins. “Whether these data are sufficient to change clinical practice in areas of the world where folic acid food fortification is already in place is still a matter for discussion.”

So what does this mean? Researchers suggest that in the absence of significant evidence, people shouldn’t focus on dietary supplements, and instead get their vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet. This is particularly significant since according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in 2012, 52 percent of the population were taking supplements.

“So far, no research on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods including vegetables, fruits and nuts,” Jenkins concludes.

The US Dietary Guidelines recommend three diets to reduce heart disease risk, all of which emphasize fruits and vegetables, and a reduction in meat and dairy:

  • a healthy American diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and red meat, but high in fruit and vegetables;
  • a Mediterranean diet;
  • and a vegetarian diet.

The study has been published in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Meet ‘Virgin Rainbow’: quite possibly the finest opal ever unearthed

As a geologist, I’m really not into gemstones and “pretty rocks” – but every once in a while, I see a rock so spectacular that it just blows my mind. Such is the case with “Virgin Rainbow”, a glorious opal unveiled by the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.

Estimated at over $1 million, the outstanding psychedelic specimen has an amazingly rich color palette and light refracting qualities. The opal will be exhibited as part of the museum’s larger “Opals” exhibition, which celebrates 100 years of opal mining in South Australia – the area that supplies 90% of the world’s opals. Ironically, the area that used to be covered in waters and riddled with marine dinosaurs is now a hot, barren wasteland.

“It is ironic that in the most harsh of terrains the most beautiful of naturally occurring gems are now found,” says Brian Oldman, the director for the South Australia Museum. “This is an exhibition literally millions of years in the making because these opals were formed back when dinosaurs walked the Earth and central Australia was an inland sea.”

In addition to many spectacular opals, the exhibition will also feature the history and culture of mining operations, including an in-depth look at the famous Tatooine-like mining town of Coober Pedy: a city built specifically for miners. What’s special about Coober Pedy is that almost the entire city was built underground, to protect the workers and their families from the extreme temperatures and massive dust storms.

“We want to showcase the history and beauty of the opal, as well as the hard work and dedication required of those who choose to mine it,” Oldman says. “There are even plans to recreate an underground opal mine inside the museum — complete with dirt brought in from Coober Pedy.

A “house” from Coober Pedy. Image via Better Architecture.

Below are some other spectacular opals featured in the exhibit, which opens Sept 25.

Opals are hydrated amorphous form of silica – amorphous as in not crystallized. Because it is amorphous, it is considered a mineraloid, and not a mineral. Water content may range from 3 to 21% by weight, but is usually between 6 and 10%. It is deposited at a relatively low temperature and may occur in the fissures of almost any kind of rock, being most commonly found with limonite, sandstone, rhyolite, marl, and basalt. Opal is the national stone of Australia.

All images via South Australian Museum.

 

GeoPicture of the Week: Pyromorphite

Pyromorphite. Image via AW Minerals.

Pyromorphite is as awesome as it sounds. The mineral is composed of lead chlorophosphate: Pb5(PO4)3Cl, sometimes occurring in sufficient abundance to be mined as an ore of lead. However, most of the time, it is found as a secondary mineral in the oxidized zones of lead ore deposits.

The color of the mineral is usually some bright shade of green, yellow or brown, and the luster is resinous. The individual crystals are often modified or etched, giving a hopper-like appearance.

Image via Imgur.

Rock with 30,000 diamonds found Russian diamond mine

Do you fancy diamonds? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you’ll absolutely love this rock extracted from a Russian mine. The rock is littered with over 30,000 diamonds, something which is extremely rare and may yield valuable information about how diamonds form in natural conditions.

What’s unlucky for gem sellers was very fortunate for researchers – because the tiny diamonds are so small, they are pretty much worthless as gems, so they donated the rock for study. Hurray for science!

The rock was extracted from the huge Udachnaya pipe, an open-pit mine located in Russia, just outside the Arctic circle. It’s one of the biggest diamond mines in Europe and in the world. The results were reported by geologist Larry Taylor from the University of Tennessee this week at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting.

“The exciting thing for me is there are 30,000 itty-bitty, perfect octahedrons, and not one big diamond,” said Taylor at the meeting. “It’s like they formed instantaneously.”

The Udachnaya pipe. Image via Wiki Commons.

Even thought the diamonds are so small, the concentration of diamonds in the ore is humongous: million times more than usually. This remarkable association of diamonds and other minerals will hopefully reveal the exact chemical reactions which lead to the formation of diamonds on Earth – which are still a mystery. Taylor said:

“The associations of minerals will tell us something about the genesis of this rock, which is a strange one indeed. The [chemical] reactions in which diamonds occur still remain an enigma,” Taylor told Live Science.

Although highly regarded as the a gem and extracted for this purpose for centuries, we still don’t know exactly how diamonds form. According to our current understanding, diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure at depths of 140 to 190 kilometers (87 to 118 mi) in the Earth’s mantle. Carbon-containing minerals provide the carbon source, and the growth occurs over extremely long periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years! Diamonds are then brought close to the Earth’s surface through deep volcanic eruptions by a magma, which cools into igneous rocks known as kimberlites and lamproites. The heat destroys most of the material surrounding the diamonds, but the diamonds still resist. There are also ways of creating artificial diamonds, but the exact chemistry still eludes us.

Diamond formation. Image via GeoScienceWorld.

But while you do see several diamonds on the same rock, you almost never find a rock with so many. Working with researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Taylor analysed the rock using an industrial X-ray tomography scanner to figure out how it ended up with such a staggering amount of diamonds and remained intact when it was raised to the surface.

“The clear crystals are just 0.04 inches (1 millimetre) tall and are octahedral, meaning they are shaped like two pyramids that are glued together at the base,” says Oskin. “The rest of the rock is speckled with larger crystals of red garnet, and green olivine and pyroxene. Minerals called sulphides round out the mix. A 3D model built from the X-rays revealed the diamonds formed after the garnet, olivine and pyroxene minerals.”

The minerals also had some exotic material included in their structure. These inclusions were once fluids that seeped out of the Earth’s oceanic crust when one tectonic plate crashed onto another. These fluids crystallized and became an integral part of the diamonds, much deeper in the earth and much, much later. This is either a very strange and unusual formation, or…

“[The source] could be just a really, really old formation that’s been down in the mantle for a long time,” Sami Mikhail from the Carnegie Institution for Science in the US, who was not involved in the research, told Live Science.

 

 

Earth’s most abundant mineral finally gets a name

What’s the most common mineral on Earth? Is it quartz, limestone? Maybe olivine? Well, if you take into consideration the entire planet, the most common mineral would be something known as silicate-perovskite – but now, that mineral finally has a name.

A sample of the 4.5 billion-year-old Tenham meteorite that contains submicrometer-sized crystals of bridgmanite. Yes, it’s that really small thing.

On June 2, bridgmanite was approved as the formal name for silicate-perovskite – possibly of the Earth’s most plentiful yet elusive mineral known to exist in the Earth’s lower mantle, between 670 and 2,900 kilometers (416 and1,802 miles). . The name was given in honor of 1946 Nobel Prize winning physicist Percy Bridgman, honoring his researches concerning the effects of high pressures on materials and their thermodynamic behaviour.

You won’t find any bridgmanite on the surface, as the mineral naturally exists only in the lower part of the mantle (which is made 93% from it). Scientists have known (or had very strong theories regarding its existence) for decades, but were unable to find a surface sample, until this year.

“This [find] fills a vexing gap in the taxonomy of minerals,” Oliver Tschauner, an associate research professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas who characterized the mineral, said in an email.

Tschauner worked with his colleague, Chi Ma, a senior scientist and mineralogist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., to characterize the structure of silicate-perovskite since 2009. However, this year they made a big breakthrough, after analyzing a meteorite which fell in Australia in 1879. The meteorite formed 4.5 billion years ago, and was “highly shocked”.

“Shocked meteorites are the only accessible source of natural specimens of minerals that we know to be rock-forming in the transition zone of the Earth,” said Tschauner.

After throughly analyzing it with every available technique, they were finally able to find the bridgmanite veins in the meteorite. Thus, confirming decades of research, they were also able to submit an official name for the mineral, which they did in March 2014.

“We are glad no one used [Bridgman] for other minerals,” said Ma, “this one is so important.”

putnisite

New and unique mineral discovered – it’s strikingly beautiful!

putnisite

Photo: P. Elliott et al. Mineralogical Magazine

There are over 4,000 known and fully described minerals in the world. Even so, scientists have yet to discover them all, and every year a couple are added to the list. The last to join the ranks is a new and unique mineral discovered by researchers at University of Adelaide in  the Polar Bear peninsula of Western Australia. Called putnisite, the mineral exhibits a never encountered structure and composition, exhibiting a lovely purple hue.

To describe the new found mineral, the researchers employed crystallographic and chemical methods. The analysis showed that putnisite isn’t related to any family or group of minerals, which goes to say it’s  completely unique and unrelated to anything.

The new mineral occurs as tiny crystals, no more than 0.5 mm in diameter and is found on a volcanic rock. It appears as dark pink spots on dark green and white rock which, under the microscope, appears as square, cube-like crystals. Elementary analysis showed that the mineral is made of strontium, calcium, chromium, sulphur, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen – a very unusual combination.

Concerning practicability, it’s yet to be determined if it could be of any use to man. Followup research that will dwell into putnisite’s properties might turn up something, though.

The new mineral was described in a paper published in the   Mineralogical Magazine.

apatite_moon_sample

New evidence suggests the moon never was abundant in water

apatite_moon_sample

(c) NASA

An eminent team of US researchers found that it is highly unlikely that the moon ever once harbored important quantities of water, after studying a mineral called apatite. Generally speaking, scientists have always though the moon was water barren, a theory confirmed by the initial rock samples brought back by the Apollo missions, however in the past decades or so new modern mineral analysis suggested that Earth’s satellite is much wetter than some believe.

Now, a new set of findings reported by a team of researchers from the US, some of whom supported the wet moon theory in the past, suggests that the high hydrogen content from volcanic glasses and apatite in lunar rocks results from a more complex chemical process, one that doesn’t fits a wet moon scenario. Conveniently enough, the name apatite comes from the Greek word ‘apat’, meaning ‘deceit’.

Lead author Dr. Jeremy Boyce, a Nasa Early Career Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, along with his distinguished colleagues, simulated the formation of apatite minerals containing different amounts of volatile elements – hydrogen, chlorine and fluorine.

The simulation demonstrated that you could start off with any kind of water composition in the magma, yet still end up with the same apatite configuration simply by varying the chlorine content and degree of crystallization. The findings suggest that the mineral’s structure formation is not as simple as saying the more hydrogen in the apatite, the more there was in the magma. Instead, it all boils down to competition between elements .

Apatite wants to pair up with fluorine, since its electron configuration is the most stable to join with. Then comes chlorine, and right at the end when there isn’t much left, hydrogen.

“So all the apatites are taking all the fluorine and hiding it from the melt. Then the melt forgets that it had all that fluorine and the apatites get more chlorine-rich and more hydrogen-rich,” the researchers write.

Back where we started: a dry moon

It’s because of this that the original indication that claimed the moon may once have been abundant in water could be false. Moreover, a lot of water on the moon contradicts the current prevailing theory concerning its formation. The theory goes that during our solar system’s infancy, a giant planetary body called Theia collided with Earth, blasting rock into Earth orbit. These debris coalesced to eventually form the moon, but in the process volatile materials must have been boiled off, leaving little water on the moon relative to Earth. So a less watery Moon ties in better with this theory.

Not only this, there are potentially other sources of hydrogen on the moon like the solar wind.

“There is some hydrogen that’s coming in from the solar wind and getting stuck on the surface. But there is some amount – definitely seems to be less than on Earth – that the Moon started with,” said Dr Francis McCubbin, senior research scientist at the University of New Mexico.

If anything, scientists may be back to drawing board as these latest findings create new uncertainty as to how much water there used to be on the moon.

“Clearly, we did the best we could at the time. But that’s the progress of science – there are course corrections,” Dr Boyce explained.

“Definitely, there is still water on the Moon. Those rocks are not completely anhydrous. There’s a really interesting record of heavy chlorine and hydrogen isotopes. But the abundances, we’ve demonstrated, are difficult to interpret.”

Dr McCubbin commented: “Forty years ago, the Apollo astronauts built a building and the elevator was on a floor where [the water abundance] was one part per billion (ppb).

“We took it up to where we were near terrestrial abundances, and then we realised we were on the wrong floor. We’ve taken it back down, but not all the way down to where we were 40 years ago.”

The findings were reported in the journal Science.

GeoPicture of the week: Mimetite

Mimetite, whose name derives from the Greek which means “imitator” is not really like any other mineral I’ve seen. It’s basically a lead arsenate chloride mineral which forms as a secondary product in lead deposits.

mimetite

It has no major uses, being a minor ore of lead, being usually gathered by collectors. It’s not used as a gemstone because of its softness. Alternative names of mimetite include arsenopyromorphite, mimetesite, and prixite.

GeoPicture of the day: Titanium

titanium

Full resolution here – it works this time, I promise.

Believe it or not, this is actually titanium, though not natural. It was obtained through a process called iodide process (or crystal bar process), unlike natural titanium, which is usually found chemically bonded in various ways found in rock ores. For more information, you should really check out this video (it’s actually a series with many other ones).

GeoPicture of the week: Crocoite from Tasmania

Crocoite is a fairly rare mineral in many parts of the world, consisting of lead chromate, PbCrO4. The relative rareness comes from the way it forms: it requires an oxidation zone of lead ore bed and presence of what are called ultramafic rocks, which act as a source of chromium. Ultramafic rocks are 90% mafic minerals (dark colored, high magnesium and iron content) – the mantle is composed of such rocks.

Shorties: 4.5 billion meteorite shows new mineral

A recently analyzed 4.5 billion years old meteorite yields one of the oldest minerals known in our solar system: krotite. The mineral is not actually new, in that it was thought to be only a man-made constituent of some high-temperature concrete, according to study researcher Anthony Kampf, curator of Mineral Sciences at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM).

“This is one that simply was not known in nature until we found it here,” Kampf told LiveScience. “That’s pretty dramatic.”

The mineral is a compound of calcium, aluminum and oxygen, and it needs an estimated temperature of 1500 degrees Celsius to form, which supports the idea that it was created in the early solar system, as the solar nebula condensed and planets started to form.

“This meteorite likely came from an asteroid in the asteroid belt,” leader researcher Chi Ma of Caltech stated.