Geology In

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Mysterious New Mineral Discovered Inside Meteorite

Scientists discovered a new mineral in the Uakit meteorite. Credit: webmineral.ru

A new type of mineral that is harder than diamond has been discovered in a meteorite, Russian scientists claim.

A meteorite discovered in Russia in 2016 has been analyzed and found to contain a mysterious new mineral that is as hard as diamonds. Did some alien lose the engagement ring he planned to give his girlfriend while traveling through an asteroid belt?

The space rock was found by gold hunters in Siberia two years ago, and extensive tests have been carried out ever since.

Experts say it contains a never-before-seen substance that formed in space, which they have nameduakitite.

Boris Shustov, head of the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Science, said it was fairly common to find new minerals in meteorites because they form under vastly different conditions to those on Earth.

He said: This is a fairly common phenomenon due to the fact that a number of minerals, number of substances that can be formed and are formed under cosmic conditions, are not found on Earth.

The meteorite was unearthed in 2016 in Buryatia, in southern Russia. The amounts of the new substance were so small, it needed to be put through special tests including electron diffraction instead of a traditional X-ray analysis.

The new discovery was unveiled by researchers from the Ural Federal University, Novosibirsk State University and the Geological Institute at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science.

Scientists said the meteorite had been subjected to temperatures of over 1,000C (1,800F) forming troilite-daubreelite associations, one of whose early minerals is uakitite.

A statement from the University said: It forms isometric (cubic) crystals (in daubreelite) or rounded grains (in schreibersite). The size of uakitite grains is usually less than 5 micrometers.

Structurally, the new mineral is related to carlsbergite CrN and osbornite TiN. The physical properties of uakitite because of the small amounts have been difficult to assess due to the tiny sizes of the grains.

However, the researchers believe it has a yellow and transparent phase with a metallic sheen and is as hard as a diamond. A special laboratory has been created within the Ural Federal University to study the new mineral in more detail.

Participants at the Annual Meeting of Meteoritic Society in Moscow were the first to hear about the discovery as well further initiatives to develop studies in space mineralogy in a country which continues to provide rich meteorological pickings for scientists.

The study was published in theAnnual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society.

Mysterious New Mineral Discovered Inside Meteorite

Scientists discovered a new mineral in the Uakit meteorite. Credit: webmineral.ru A new type of mineral that is harder than diamond h…

A Quadrillion Tons of Diamond. Under Your Feet

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and colleagues said the findings are unlikely to set off a diamond rush. (Representative image: Reuters)

That diamond on your wedding ring isnt as rare as you might think. A quadrillion tons of them. Beneath your feet. Ripe for the taking.

There may be more than a quadrillion tons of diamond hidden in the Earths interior, according to a new study from MIT and other universities. But the new results are unlikely to set off a diamond rush. The scientists estimate the precious minerals are buried more than 100 miles below the surface, far deeper than any drilling expedition has ever reached.

The ultradeep cache may be scattered within cratonic roots — the oldest and most immovable sections of rock that lie beneath the center of most continental tectonic plates. Shaped like inverted mountains, cratons can stretch as deep as 200 miles through the Earths crust and into its mantle; geologists refer to their deepest sections as roots.

In the new study, scientists estimate that cratonic roots may contain 1 to 2 percent diamond. Considering the total volume of cratonic roots in the Earth, the team figures that about a quadrillion (1016) tons of diamond are scattered within these ancient rocks, 90 to 150 miles below the surface.

This shows that diamond is not perhaps this exotic mineral, but on the [geological] scale of things, its relatively common, says Ulrich Faul, a research scientist in MITs Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. We cant get at them, but still, there is much more diamond there than we have ever thought before.

Fauls co-authors include scientists from the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, the University of California at Berkeley, Ecole Polytechnique, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Harvard University, the University of Science and Technology of China, the University of Bayreuth, the University of Melbourne, and University College London.

A sound glitchFaul and his colleagues came to their conclusion after puzzling over an anomaly in seismic data. For the past few decades, agencies such as the United States Geological Survey have kept global records of seismic activity — essentially, sound waves traveling through the Earth that are triggered by earthquakes, tsunamis, explosions, and other ground-shaking sources. Seismic receivers around the world pick up sound waves from such sources, at various speeds and intensities, which seismologists can use to determine where, for example, an earthquake originated.

Scientists can also use this seismic data to construct an image of what the Earths interior might look like. Sound waves move at various speeds through the Earth, depending on the temperature, density, and composition of the rocks through which they travel. Scientists have used this relationship between seismic velocity and rock composition to estimate the types of rocks that make up the Earths crust and parts of the upper mantle, also known as the lithosphere.

However, in using seismic data to map the Earths interior, scientists have been unable to explain a curious anomaly: Sound waves tend to speed up significantly when passing through the roots of ancient cratons. Cratons are known to be colder and less dense than the surrounding mantle, which would in turn yield slightly faster sound waves, but not quite as fast as what has been measured.

The velocities that are measured are faster than what we think we can reproduce with reasonable assumptions about what is there, Faul says. Then we have to say, There is a problem. Thats how this project started.

Diamonds in the deepThe team aimed to identify the composition of cratonic roots that might explain the spikes in seismic speeds. To do this, seismologists on the team first used seismic data from the USGS and other sources to generate a three-dimensional model of the velocities of seismic waves traveling through the Earths major cratons.

Next, Faul and others, who in the past have measured sound speeds through many different types of minerals in the laboratory, used this knowledge to assemble virtual rocks, made from various combinations of minerals. Then the team calculated how fast sound waves would travel through each virtual rock, and found only one type of rock that produced the same velocities as what the seismologists measured: one that contains 1 to 2 percent diamond, in addition to peridotite (the predominant rock type of the Earths upper mantle) and minor amounts of eclogite (representing subducted oceanic crust). This scenario represents at least 1,000 times more diamond than people had previously expected.

Diamond in many ways is special, Faul says. One of its special properties is, the sound velocity in diamond is more than twice as fast as in the dominant mineral in upper mantle rocks, olivine.

The researchers found that a rock composition of 1 to 2 percent diamond would be just enough to produce the higher sound velocities that the seismologists measured. This small fraction of diamond would also not change the overall density of a craton, which is naturally less dense than the surrounding mantle.

They are like pieces of wood, floating on water, Faul says. Cratons are a tiny bit less dense than their surroundings, so they dont get subducted back into the Earth but stay floating on the surface. This is how they preserve the oldest rocks. So we found that you just need 1 to 2 percent diamond for cratons to be stable and not sink.

In a way, Faul says cratonic roots made partly of diamond makes sense. Diamonds are forged in the high-pressure, high-temperature environment of the deep Earth and only make it close to the surface through volcanic eruptions that occur every few tens of millions of years. These eruptions carve out geologic pipes made of a type of rock called kimberlite (named after the town of Kimberley, South Africa, where the first diamonds in this type of rock were found). Diamond, along with magma from deep in the Earth, can spew out through kimberlite pipes, onto the surface of the Earth.

For the most part, kimberlite pipes have been found at the edges of cratonic roots, such as in certain parts of Canada, Siberia, Australia, and South Africa. It would make sense, then, that cratonic roots should contain some diamond in their makeup.

Its circumstantial evidence, but weve pieced it all together, Faul says. We went through all the different possibilities, from every angle, and this is the only one thats left as a reasonable explanation.

The above story is based onmaterialsprovided byMIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Discovery provides evidence of iron-rich seawater much later than previously thought

The discovery of Earths youngest-ever banded iron formation is changing how scientists understand the evolution of complex life, according to a study by University of Alberta geologists.

The banded iron formation, located in western China, has been conclusively dated as Cambrian in age. Approximately 527 million years old, this formation is young by comparison to the majority of discoveries to date. The deposition of banded iron formations, which began approximately 3.8 billion years ago, had long been thought to terminate before the beginning of the Cambrian Period at 540 million years ago.

This is critical, as it is the first observation of a Precambrian-like banded iron formation that is Early Cambrian in age. This offers the most conclusive evidence for the presence of widespread iron-rich conditions at a time, confirming what has recently been suggested from geochemical proxies, said Kurt Konhauser, professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and co-author. Konhauser supervised the research that was led by Zhiquan Li, a PhD candidate from Beijing while on exchange at UAlberta.

The Early Cambrian is known for the rise of animals, so the level of oxygen in seawater should have been closer to near modern levels. This is important as the availability of oxygen has long been thought to be a handbrake on the evolution of complex life, and one that should have been alleviated by the Early Cambrian, says Leslie Robbins, a PhD candidate in Konhausers lab and a co-author on the paper.

The researchers compared the geological characteristics and geochemistry to ancient and modern samples to find an analogue for their deposition. The team relied on the use of rare earth element patterns to demonstrate that the deposit formed in, or near, a chemocline in a stratified iron-rich basin.

Future studies will aim to quantify the full extent of these Cambrian banded iron formations in China and whether similar deposits can be found elsewhere, says Kurt Konhauser.

Future studies will aim to quantify the full extent of these Cambrian banded iron formations in China and whether similar deposits can be found elsewhere, says Kurt Konhauser.

The paper, Earths youngest banded iron formation implies ferruginous conditions in the Early Cambrian ocean, was published in Scientific Reports.

The above story is based onMaterialsprovided byUniversity of Alberta.

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Minerals Could Bear the Scars of Collisions With Dark Matter

Ancient minerals buried underground could bear scars of early collisions with dark matter. Minerals such as halite and zabuyelite could serve as natural dark matter detectors, scientists said.

Did Early Earth Collide With Dark Matter? 500 Million-Year-Old Minerals Could Hold Key To Ancient Encounter. Kilometres beneath Earths surface, some minerals could bear the scars of collisions with dark matter.

Minerals deep inside Earth might contain telltale traces of collisions with dark matter the elusive stuff that researchers think makes up most of the matter in the Universe. Experiments designed to search for these traces could one day complement or even compete with ongoing efforts to detect dark matter directly.

Researchers using sophisticated detectors sunk deep underground have searched for signs of dark matter for decades. But now, Katherine Freese, a physicist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and her colleagues suggest that minerals such as halite (sodium chloride) and zabuyelite (lithium