Saturday, January 7, 2012

'moon mineral' brought back by Apollo astronauts is found in billion-year-old Australian rocks

Australian paleontologist Birger Rasmussen has found tranquillityite, a mineral thought to be unique to the moon, in billion-year-old rocks in Western Australia.

When the Apollo astronauts returned to Earth, they brought back three minerals - armalcolite, pyroxferroite, and tranquillityite, named after the Sea of Tranquillity, where astronauts landed in 1969.

The first two were subsequently found on Earth - but the third, tranquillityite was thought to be the 'moon's own mineral'.

In a paper published this week, Rasmussen reveals that the mineral is present in six sites in Australia - and might be 'widespread.'

Rasmussen told the Sydney Morning Herald, 'This was essentially the last mineral which was sort of uniquely lunar that had been found in the 70s from these samples returned from the Apollo mission.'

'The mineral has since been found exclusively in returned lunar samples and lunar meteorites, with no terrestrial counterpart. We have now identified tranquillityite in six sites from Western Australia.'

Rasmussen says that it's proof these minerals were 'always' part of the Earth - and that similar chemical processes are at work on earth and on the moon. Read More

'the reason no one had found it was that, 'No one was looking hard enough.'

Paleontologist Birger Rasmussen