A new “Earth-like” planet, 120 trillion miles away has just been discovered, resurrecting questions about extraterrestrial life. Experts say that the new Earth-like planet, which sits in the Goldilocks zone, is three times the mass of our planet and is quite unlike any of the 500 or so other planets astronomers have found outside our solar system. Geologists now have the exciting time, speculating whether the minerals on the new Earth-like planet will be the same as those we are familiar with today.
The big-bang theorist’s may argue similarities between minerals found on Earth and other planets. Given the fact that Space is a lot bigger than Earth, proportions of the respective minerals will be different. Materials such as iridium are rare on Earth, but have been found in meteorites in relatively high concentrations. A mineral's structure depends partly on its chemical formula and partly on its history. Like cooking food in the kitchen, mineral formation is dependant on how it has been “baked” over time.
Alan Roddis, Managing Director of G.A.E.A. Limited says, “It would be reasonable to believe that if the “baking conditions”, that is temperature and pressure in an oxygen rich atmosphere, on the new Earth-like planet are similar to our planet, then probability would suggest that some of the minerals found there will be the same or similar”. However, experts say that the new Earth-like plant does not rotate as much as our planet, therefore one side is almost always bright and the other dark.
There is also speculation that temperatures could be as hot as 70 degrees Celsius (160 deg Fahrenheit) and as cold as -31 degrees Celsius (-25 Deg Fahrenheit). Roddis continues, “Undoubtedly, these different conditions will affect the minerals that are formed in the new planet over millions and millions of years. Such conditional changes would likely affect mineral colour, clarity and structure. The beautiful peacock colours of faceted Labradorite gemstones or the defined colour striations of Orange River Quartz gemstones may not be obtainable on the new Earth-like planet.
Furthermore, while curved rutilations in Witches Finger and Rutilated Quartz gemstones are very unusual on Earth, the different cooking conditions may mean that they are common place on other planets”.
Will life on the new Earth-like Planet affect the minerals formed there?
Scientists usually do not consider solids produced by living things; bones, shells and pearls, as minerals. Therefore, if there is, or was, life on the new Earth-like planet, it would not affect the minerals which could exist there. What will affect the minerals found is the environment.
There are approximately 3,000 known minerals in the Earth's crust and mantle. Three quarters of the crust, by weight, is made up of just two elements; 47% Oxygen and 27% Silicon. Given these large ratios, the number of minerals that can physically form on Earth is finite. “If the new Earth-like planet has similar levels of Oxygen and Silicon, then it is reasonable to assume the number of minerals found will also be finite, like our Earth”, say Roddis.
Minerals such as Quartz, are pure crystalline silica and these will be found in Silicon rich environments.
Non-silicate minerals, such as Calcite, Anhydrite, Apatite and Spinel may also be present if Oxygen exists. If Oxygen levels on the new Earth-like planet are less than our planet, minerals which do not involve oxygen at all, such as salt, pyrite, carbon and gold may be found in abundance. One thing is for sure; minerals are critical for life on this planet, from health to wealth, glamour to status. No doubt on other Earth-like planets they will be equally as critical to life. www.gaealimited.com