New Carbon Minerals

The Carbon Mineral Challenge is a worldwide hunt to find new carbon-bearing minerals by 2019. An estimated 145 such minerals remain undiscovered. Both professional and amateur geologists can get involved. This poster shows some recent discoveries:

Poster for the Carbon Mineral Challenge (click for full-res pdf)

Listed in the poster are:

Abellaite, NaPb2(CO3)2(OH) – photo: Matteo Chinellato

Putnisite, a new mineral

Geologists in Australia have discovered a new mineral, putnisite (photo above by P. Elliott, G. Giester, R. Rowe, and A. Pring).

Putnisite has the chemical formula SrCa4Cr8(CO3)8SO4(OH)16·25H2O. The chromium in the mineral is trivalent, so that’s 2 + 2×4 + 3×8 = 34 for cations and 2×8 + 2 + 16 = 34 for anions. See here for the crystal structure. Putnisite is quite soft, with a hardness of 1½–2 on the Mohs scale.

Related minerals include strontianite: SrCO3, celestine: SrSO4, and the purple stichtite: Mg6Cr2CO3(OH)16·4H2O, which was also discovered in Australia (photo below by Didier Descouens).

Putnisite was found at Lake Cowan, near Norseman, Western Australia, and was named after Münster-based mineralogists Andrew and Christine Putnis. The discovery was published earlier this year. Peter Elliott, the lead author of the paper, is a visiting research fellow in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide, as well as a research associate with the South Australian Museum.

I’m sure that the Museum would love a specimen for their collection (photo below), although the crystals of putnisite found so far are in fact almost microscopically small.

1957–58, the International Geophysical Year

The International Geophysical Year (actually a year and a half, from July 1957 to December 1958) saw the beginning of the “space race,” and the collection of a huge amount of valuable data. The science books I grew up with as a child were constantly referring to the results of the event.

The IGY, as it was abbreviated, included several solar eclipses (23 Oct 57, 19 Apr 58, 12 Oct 58) as well as the record-breaking solar maximum of 1957/58. In fact, February 11, 1958 turned out to be a very good night for Aurora chasers.

The IGY incorporated, among other activities:


Perhaps the world can use more collaborative efforts like the IGY.

Zalzala Jazeera, a new island

Zalzala Jazeera (“Earthquake Island”), shown in the satellite image above, is a new island formed off the coast of Pakistan by the 2013 Pakistan earthquake. Such islands are not a new phenomenon: Surtsey, off Iceland, is perhaps the best-known example.

Maps of Pakistan will need to be updated, until the tiny (about 150m wide, by my analysis of the photograph) island is eventually lost to erosion.

See “Bad Astronomy” at Slate for more images and information. The image below is from the Pakistani National Institute of Oceanography, via NASA (who are currently offline, due to the US federal government shutdown):