Are there valuable minerals on the moon

Moon: Researchers find new mineral in old meteorite

A European team of researchers has discovered a new mineral in a lunar meteorite. The special find is used to research the history of the origins of the moon.

Scanning electron microscope image of the new mineral donwilhelmsite in the lunar meteorite Oued Awlitis 001.

Photo: Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Ansgar Greshake

Oued Awlitis 001 - this is what the special name of a piece of the moon sounds like. A European team of researchers examined this lunar meteorite and made an astonishing discovery during the analyzes. Just recently, NASA found new traces of water on the moon.

New mineral from the moon: Scientists are overwhelmed

There is a new mineral from the moon. The scientists baptize it with the name: Donwilhelmsit.A new treasure for exploring the moon has been recovered. Ansgar Greshake, Scientific Director of the Meteorite Collection at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, is moved: "I've been working on meteorites every day for 25 years, but suddenly being the first to discover a new mineral from space and then research it is an overwhelming feeling." The research team worked with the participation of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. One of the main research topics at the museum is impact and meteorite research, as the formation and development of the earth and life were largely shaped by the impacts of cosmic bodies.


Cosmic bodies have some secrets

Unknown minerals are among the many secrets of cosmic bodies. So far, 5,000 minerals are known worldwide. Less than 50 are rewritten each year. The international research team can now look forward to one of these discoveries.

Also read: Researchers measure hazardous radiation from space

Lunar meteorites provide valuable insights

Around 382 kilograms of rock and soil were collected from the Apollo and Luna missions. Moon meteorites provide valuable insights into the history of the earth's satellite. The collection material gives researchers the opportunity to find important answers to relevant questions. Among other things, they deal with how meteorite impacts affect the development of the planets in our solar system.

The moon causes surprises.


Lunar meteorite Qued Awlitis 001

The name of the lunar meteorite goes back to the village of Oued Awlitis in Morocco. The story of the find is just as curious as the new mineral that has now been found. In 2014, a group of locals wanted to stop near Oued Awlitis to prepare dinner. When looking for suitable firewood, they came across a stone with a noticeably shiny crust. This “stone” was stuck under a log in the ground. The 382 gram stone was promptly inserted - later it turned out to be a lunar meteorite. Scientists then searched the site and found another 50 gram fragment. This fit like a piece of a puzzle to the main piece.

Inside, Oued Awlitis is light gray; The lunar meteorite is covered by a glassy greenish-brown enamel crust.

Already knew? It was not until 1982, after the discovery of lunar meteorites, that it was recognized that stones can get from the moon to earth without human intervention.

Impacts of large asteroids have a lasting effect on the development of the moon

The lunar surface shows that impacts from large asteroids have had a lasting effect on the development of the earth's satellite. The numerous impact craters speak for this. In rare cases, material from the moon reaches the earth as a lunar meteorite.

When ejected from the mother body, meteorites are exposed to particularly high temperatures and pressures. The extreme physical conditions often lead to a shock-like melting of microscopic rock areas, which then form melt veins or melt pockets in these meteorites. These shocked rock areas are of great importance because they reflect pressure and temperature conditions that are similar to those in the Earth's mantle. These natural melting pots contain minerals that are otherwise inaccessible on the earth's surface.

In meteorites, for example, minerals such as wadsleyite, ringwoodite and bridgmanite are found, a large proportion of which make up the earth's mantle.

Moon: New mineral consists of calcium, aluminum and much more.

The newly discovered mineral Donwilhelmsit [CaAl4Si2O11] consists largely of calcium, aluminum, silicon and oxygen atoms. The new mineral was discovered within melting shock zones of the lunar meteorite Oued Awlitis 001 - even though the rock was found in Western Sahara as early as 2014.

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Particularly astonishing: This meteorite is similar in its composition to the rocks that make up the continents of the earth.

These rocks enter the oceans through wind and rivers. These transport them further so that they become part of the dense oceanic crust through the movement of the earth's plates into the earth's mantle. The mineral components penetrate into the depths of about 460-700 kilometers and transform into other mineral phases under high pressure and hot temperatures. Including the now discovered mineral Donwilhelmsit.

Further descriptions of the new mineral can be found in the scientific journal "American Mineralogist".

These research institutes worked together for the achievement:

  • Center for Ries Craters and Impact Research Nördlingen, Germany)
  • Natural History Museum Vienna
  • Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences
  • Helmholtz Center GFZ Potsdam
  • Natural History Museum Oslo
  • University of Manchester
  • German Aerospace Center Berlin

This pan-European research was necessary in order to acquire the lunar meteorite, to find the new mineral for the first time using optical and electron-optical methods at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin and to describe it in detail.

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The new mineral was named in honor of the lunar geologist Don E. Wilhelms. The American scientist was involved in the data analysis of the Apollo space missions, which brought the first rock samples from the moon to earth. A part of the meteorite Oued Awlitis 001 is exhibited today in the Natural History Museum Vienna.

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A contribution from:

  • Sarah Janczura

    Sarah Janczura is content manager and responsible editor for After an internship with a focus on social media, she worked as an online editor in a digital agency. She writes about technology, research and career topics.