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Title: Tranquillityite  
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Subject: Apollo 11
Collection: Apollo 11, Calcium Minerals, Iron Minerals, Nesosilicates, Zirconium Minerals
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Category Silicate mineral (nesosilicate group)
(repeating unit)
(Fe2+)8Ti3Zr2 Si3O24[1]
Strunz classification 9.AG.90
Dana classification (Unclassified silicates)
Unit cell a = 11.69 Å, c = 22.25 Å; Z = 6; V = 2,633.24 Å3
Color Gray, dark red-brown in transmitted light
Crystal habit Lath shaped grains generally found as inclusions in other minerals or interstitial (<0.1% in weight)[2]
Crystal system Hexagonal
Luster Submetalic
Diaphaneity Opaque to semitransparent
Density 4.7 ± 0.1 g/cm3[3]
Optical properties Biaxial
Refractive index nα = 2.120
Pleochroism No
2V angle 40°
Common impurities Y, Hf, Al, Cr, Nb, Nd, Mn, Ca
References [1][4][4][5][6][7][8]

Tranquillityite is silicate mineral with formula (Fe2+)8Ti3Zr2 Si3O24.[1] It is mostly composed of iron, oxygen, silicon, zirconium and titanium with smaller fractions of yttrium and calcium. It is named after the Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility), the place on the Moon from which the rock samples in which it was found were brought during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Until its discovery in Australia in 2011, it was the last mineral brought from the Moon which was thought to be unique, with no terrestrial counterpart.[9]


  • Discovery 1
  • Properties 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


In 1970, material scientists found a new unnamed Fe, Ti, Zr- silicate mineral containing rare-earths and Y in lunar rock sample 10047.[10][11][12][13] The first detailed analysis of the mineral was published in 1971 and the name “tranquillityite” was proposed and later accepted by the International Mineralogical Association.[1][2][14][15] It was later found in lunar rock samples from all Apollo missions.[16] Samples were dated by Pb/Pb ion probe techniques.[17][18][19][20]

Together with armalcolite and pyroxferroite, it is one of the three minerals which were first discovered on the Moon, before terrestrial occurrences were found.[5][21] Fragments of tranquillityite were later found in Northwest Africa, in the NWA 856 Martian meteorite.[22][23]

Terrestrial occurrences of tranquillityite have been found in six localities in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, Western Australia in 2011.[9][24][25] The Australian occurrences include a number of Proterozoic to Cambrian age diabase and gabbro dikes and sills. It occurs as interstitial grains with zirconolite, baddeleyite, and apatite associated with late stage intergrowths of quartz and feldspar.[24]


Tranquillityite forms thin stripes up to 15 by 65 micrometres in size in basaltic rocks, where it was produced at a late crystallization stage. It is associated with troilite, pyroxferroite, cristobalite and alkali feldspar. The mineral is nearly opaque and appears dark red-brown in thin crystals.[7] The analyzed samples contains less than 10% impurities (Y, Al, Mn, Cr, Nb and other rare-earth element) and up to 0.01% (100 ppm) of uranium.[26] Presence of significant amount of uranium allowed to estimate the age of tranquillityite and some associated minerals in Apollo 11 samples as 3710 million years using the uranium-lead dating technique.[20]

Irradiation by alpha particles generated by the uranium decay is believed to be the origin of the predominantly amorphous metamict structure of tranquillityite. Its crystals were obtained by annealing the samples at 800 °C (1,470 °F) for 30 minutes. Longer annealing did not improve the crystalline quality, and annealing at higher temperatures resulted in spontaneous fracture of samples.[16]

The crystals were initially found to have a hexagonal crystal structure with the lattice parameters, a = 1.169 nm, c = 2.225 nm and three formula units per unit cell,[7] but later reassigned a face-centered cubic structure (fluorite-like). A tranquillityite-like crystalline phase has been synthesized by mixing oxide powders in an appropriate ratio, determined from the chemical analysis of the lunar samples, and annealing the mixture at 1,500 °C (2,730 °F). This phase was not pure, but intergrown with various intermetallic compounds.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Nickel, Ernest H.; Nichols, Monte C., eds. (2009). "The official IMA-CNMNC List of Mineral Names". Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature And Classification.  
  2. ^ a b Lovering et al. 1971, p. 40
  3. ^ Lovering et al. 1971, p. 41
  4. ^ a b Lovering et al. 1971
  5. ^ a b "Tranquillityite". Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  6. ^ "Tranquillityite". Webmineral. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  7. ^ a b c Fleischer 1973
  8. ^ Handbook of Mineralogy
  9. ^ a b Waugh, Rob (7 January 2012). "Last unique 'moon mineral' brought back by Apollo astronauts is found in billion-year-old Australian rocks". Daily Mail. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  10. ^ Ramdohr & El Goresy 1970
  11. ^ Cameron 1970
  12. ^ Dence et al. 1970, p. 324
  13. ^ Meyer, Charles (2009). "Sample 10047:Ilmenite Basalt (low K) 138 grams Figure". NASA Lunar Sample Compendium. Nasa. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  14. ^ Heiken, Vaniman & French 1991, pp. 133–134
  15. ^ Walker, Fleischer & Buford Price 1975, p. 505
  16. ^ a b c Gatehouse et al. 1977
  17. ^ Hinthorne et al. (1979)
  18. ^ Rasmussen, Fletcher & Muhling (2008)
  19. ^ Hinthorne et al. 1979, pp. 271–303
  20. ^ a b Rasmussen, Fletcher & Muhling 2008
  21. ^ Lunar Sample Mineralogy, NASA
  22. ^ Russell et al. 2002
  23. ^ Leroux & Cordier 2006
  24. ^ a b Rassmussen et al. 2012
  25. ^ "Rare Moon mineral found in Australia". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  26. ^ Lovering et al. 1971, pp. 42–43
  • Cameron, E. N. (1970). "Opaque minerals in certain lunar rocks from Apollo 11". Proceedings of the Apollo 11 Lunar Science Conference (5–8 January 1970, Houston, TX). : Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Supplement. 1: Mineralogy and Petrology: 193–206.  
  • Dence, M. R.; Douglas, J. A. V.; Plant, A. G.; Traill, R. J. (1970). "Petrology, Mineralogy and Deformation of Apollo 11 Samples". Proceedings of the Apollo 11 Lunar Science Conference (5–8 January 1970, Houston, TX). : Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Supplement. 1: Mineralogy and Petrology: 315–340.  
  • Fleischer, Michael (1973). "New mineral names". American Mineralogist 58 (1–2): 139–141. 
  • Gatehouse, B. M.; Grey, I. E.; Lovering, J. F.; Wark, D. A. (1977). "Structural studies on tranquillityite and related synthetic phases". Proceedings of the Lunar Science Conference, 8th, Houston, Tex., March 14–18, 1977 (New York: Pergamon Press, Inc.). 2 (A78-41551 18–91): 1831–1838.  
  • Heiken, Grant; Vaniman, David; French, Bevan M. (1991). Lunar Sourcebook : a User's Guide to the Moon. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. pp. 133–134.  
  • Hinthorne, J.R.; Andersen, C.A.; Conrad, R.L; Lovering, J.F. (1979). "Single-grain 207Pb/206Pb and U/Th age determinations with a 10-micron spatial resolution using the ion microprobe mass analyzer (IMMA)". Chem. Geology 25 (4): 271–303.  
  • Leroux, Hugues; Cordier, Patrick (2006). "Magmatic cristobalite and quartz in the NWA 856 Martian meteorite". Meteoritics & Planetary Science 41 (6): 913923.  
  • Lovering, J. F.; Wark, D. A.; Reid, A. F.; Ware, N. G.; Keil, K.; Prinz, M.; Bunch, T.E.; El Goresy, A.; Ramdohr, P. et al. (1971). "Tranquillityite: A new silicate mineral from Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 basaltic rocks". Proceedings of the Lunar Science Conference 2: 39–45.  
  • Ramdohr, Paul; El Goresy, Ahmed (30 January 1970). "Opaque Minerals of the Lunar Rocks and Dust from Mare Tranquillitatis". Science. Ahmed 167 (3918): 615–618.  
  • Rasmussen, Birger; Fletcher, Ian R.; Muhling, Janet R. (2008). "Pb/Pb Geochronology, Petrography and Chemistry of Zr-rich Accessory Minerals (Zirconolite, Tranquillityite and Baddeleyite) in Mare Basalt 10047". Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 72 (23): 5799–5818.  
  • Rasmussen, Birger; Fletcher, Ian R.; Gregory, Courtney J.; Muhling, Janet R.; Suvorova, Alexandra A. (2012). "Tranquillityite: The last lunar mineral comes down to Earth". Geology 40 (1): 83–86.  
  • Russell, Sara S.; Zipfel, Jutta; Grossman, Jeffrey N.; Grady, Monica M. (2002). "The Meteoritical Bulletin N°86 2002 July". Meteoritics & Planetary Science 37: A157.  
  • Walker, Robert M.; Fleischer, Robert L.; Buford Price, P. (1975). Nuclear tracks in solids : principles and applications. Berkeley: University of California Press.  

External links

  • Collection of pictures of Tranquillityite (Source: Australian Associated Press/Birger Rasmussen 2012)
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