Posts from the ‘elements’ Category


How to Build a Planet: Heavy Metals Are Key Ingredients

Image: An artist conception of a newly formed star surrounded by a swirling protoplanetary disk of dust and gas, where debris coalesces to create rocky ‘planetesimals’ that collide and grow to eventually form planets. A new study suggests small rocky planet may actually be widespread in our Milky Way galaxy. Credit: University of Copenhagen, Lars A. Buchhave

Planets may not be able to form without a heaping helping of heavy elements such as silicon, titanium and magnesium, a new study suggests.

Stars that host planets have higher concentrations of such “metals” — astronomer-speak for elements heavier than hydrogen and helium — compared to iron than do planetless stars, the study found.

“To form planets, one needs heavy elements,” said lead author Vardan Adibekyan, of the Centre for Astrophysics of the University of Porto in Portugal.

Connected at birth

Planets coalesce from the disk of dust and gas left over after the birth of their parent star. According to the leading theory of planet formation, the core accretion model, small particles clump together, growing larger and larger until they produce protoplanets.

Scientists have long suspected that stars with higher metallicities are more likely to have planets orbiting them. Iron has long been a primary indicator.

“Usually, in stellar physics, people use the iron content as a proxy of overall metallicity,”

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Did you guys know rubies and sapphires – which are usually seen in jewellery – are actually the same thing?

When I say the ‘same thing’, I mean they are both varieties of the mineral corundum, which forms mainly in metamorphic rocks, but not limited to. They have the same chemical formula, Al2O3, yet come in different colours and are known to the general public as different ‘stones’.

Rubies and sapphires both must have a certain amount of colourisation and hues to be considered a specific kind of that gemstone. Sapphires can also come in other colours than the dark blue most people know.

The reasons for all these different colours and hues is dependant on the amount of elements found within the mineral.

For example, the ruby’s pink-to-red colours are because of the presence of the element chromium.

Sapphires come in a more array of colours – blue, purple, green, yellow, pink, etc – due to different elements being present like copper, iron, and magnesium; just to name a few.

The best part is, these are all impurities. Funny how impurities actually make something even more beautiful, right? As well, we all know the diamond is the hardest gemstone, coming in with a 10.0 on the Mohs scale, but rubies and sapphires come very close with a 9.0.

Oh yeah, and these varieties can be fluorescent too. Just a bonus to add to the pure awesome that is corundum. Next time you see these gemstones set in jewellery, you’ll now know some new facts to tell others!

Photo credit goes to:

Creators of peace, justice, and heavy molecules!


The Greatest Story Ever Told by Schuhle Lewis

The rest is really just details. But details of the most wonderful sort.