What minerals are on the moon
Surprise from space : Meteorite brings new mineral to earth
A European research team has discovered a new mineral in a meteorite from the moon. In the specialist journal “American Mineralogist”, Jörg Fritz's team from the Center for Giant Craters and Impact Research in Nördlingen reports on the high-pressure mineral called Donwilhelmsite (CaAl4Si2O11), which was formed on the moon through fusion processes.
When impact craters form on the moon, rocks from the earth's satellite are thrown into space and sometimes land on earth as a meteorite. One of them is the “Oued Awlitis 001” meteorite, which was found in January 2014 in Western Sahara.
Extreme physical conditions
Extreme physical conditions sometimes occur when meteorites hit, and microscopic areas within the lunar rock could melt. "These tiny melting zones are of great importance because there, for a fraction of a second, pressure and temperature conditions occur that also exist inside the earth," the researchers explain. In such natural melting pots, minerals are created that are otherwise inaccessible under extreme pressure and temperatures hidden in the earth's interior.
The new mineral Donwilhelmsite consists of calcium, aluminum, silicon and oxygen atoms. It is the first high-pressure mineral in meteorites with significance for so-called subducted terrestrial sediments: It has chemical similarities to the rocks of our continents, which are carried into the oceans by wind and rivers and drawn deep into the earth's mantle by plate tectonics together with the dense oceanic crust where they transform into denser minerals with increasing pressure and temperature. A process that must have taken place in the find “Oued Awlitis 001” when a meteorite hit the moon.
Still unknown on earth
The new mineral had not yet been discovered in the earth, but is believed to be at a depth of 460 to 700 kilometers inside the earth. "It may be possible in the future to find it as micro-inclusions in diamonds," said Richard Wirth from the Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam (GFZ). The microstructural aspects of the rock sample were examined at the GFZ using transmission electron microscopy.
The new mineral was named after the American lunar explorer Don E. Wilhelms. He was part of the Apollo missions that brought the first rocks from the moon to earth.
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