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NASA Science

Green Crystal 'Rain' Discovered Near Infant Star 43

Posted by Soulskill
from the somebody-should-stake-a-claim dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this quote from a NASA press release: "Tiny crystals of a green mineral called olivine are falling down like rain on a burgeoning star, according to observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. This is the first time such crystals have been observed in the dusty clouds of gas that collapse around forming stars. Astronomers are still debating how the crystals got there, but the most likely culprits are jets of gas blasting away from the embryonic star. ... The crystals are in the form of forsterite. They belong to the olivine family of silicate minerals and can be found everywhere from a periodot gemstone to the green sand beaches of Hawaii to remote galaxies. NASA's Stardust and Deep Impact missions both detected the crystals in their close-up studies of comets. ... The findings (abstract) might also explain why comets, which form in the frigid outskirts of our solar system, contain the same type of crystals."
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Green Crystal 'Rain' Discovered Near Infant Star

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  • it pours

  • How can they be so sure that it's olivine? I mean, if it's green crystals, my guess would be kryptonite. But IANAS, of course.
    • Re:How do they know (Score:5, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @04:31AM (#36294566) Homepage Journal

      The linked abstract says:

      The mid-infrared spectrum reveals crystalline substructure at 11.1, 16.1, 18.8, 23.6, 27.9, and 33.6 m superimposed on the broad 9.7 and 18 m amorphous silicate features; the substructure is well matched by the presence of the olivine end-member forsterite (Mg2SiO4).

      So its basically spectroscopy. You plot amplitude vs wavelength for the light emitted by the star and associated material. Samples of different materials in the lab can be used to give you spectra for comparison. If you have a spectrum for kryptonite you could certainly plug it into the data.

      • by gilleain (1310105)
        It's been mentioned before, but if slashdot handled unicode properly, then I would have read the micrometers in your comment, and not just 'm'. Ampersand mu doesn't work... ?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        My kryptonite is purely to keep Superman at bay while I plot nefariously, one chunk aught to be enough for any super villain.

      • by Convector (897502)

        That's right. Forsterite forms green crystals, but I'm sure that's not what was actually seen. It's really only possible to detect the spectroscopic signature at any distance. We're probably actually seeing single Mg2SiO4 molecules, not the larger crystals we get on Earth. They certainly have to be microscopic or they'd just block the light rather than produce an absorption spectrum. Even if you were right next to them, I bet you wouldn't see green crystals. Possibly the article says as much; I confe

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Some stay dry and others feel the pain.

  • by igny (716218) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @04:53AM (#36294648) Homepage Journal
    Nice advertisement for the green lantern.
    • by Coisiche (2000870)
      I had heard that studio advertising budgets where quite large but this must have cost a pretty penny to pull off.
      • It's the sort of promotional co-branding synergy that's been facilitated when the newly merged 20th Paramount Columbia Universal Disney Brothers bought out God in a hostile takeover.

        In other news, the penalty for copyright infringement is eternal torment in hell by Marcellus Wallace. He'll get medieval on yo' cheap ass fo' EVAH. The texts of all major religions have been updated retroactively to make copyright infringement the most serious sin.

        • by Coisiche (2000870)

          That would also lead to a "re-imagining" of an old movie: The Eleven Commandments. When Moses comes out with the slabs "THOU SHALT NOT USE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF OTHERS (unless you reimburse them and their lawyers appropriately)" will be on one. The unimportant other ten will be illegible on the second slab.

          And there would still be a frickin' advert demonising copyright theft on legitimately purchased DVDs of it.

    • No kidding.

      When Pirate of the Caribbean 4 came out last week, with the new Blackbeard character, I saw this story:

      http://www.google.com/search?q=blackbeard+anchor&tbm=nws [google.com]

      And I remember this happening with other movies too, obscure science stories tangentially related to what's currently in the multiplex coming to the mass media front page. I don't think these occurrences are a matter of weird coincidences, nor do I think movie PR firms are investing in astronomy or marine archeology. To use a word I hate: it's synergy. But it's natural, without coordinated effort:

      1. It works for the scientists: all the movie hype can be milked for some extra interest in Blackbeard's anchor while Blackbeard is in every suburban multiplex.
      2. The news media source wins too: you're going to get a lot more clicks on your news story if it dovetails with what everyone is watching in the movies.
      3. And I guess you can call it a little extra bang for your movie advertising buck, as it keeps interest in your movie humming along.
      4. And the general public wins too, I guess, if watching Green Lantern or Pirates of the Caribbean sends one or two suburban kids down the path of science.

  • At 100$ the ton, olivine is not your next source of income.

    Do not expect to go over there to harvest these crystals.
    By the way noone will go there soon anyway ...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes. While not a particularly common mineral on the land surface of the Earth, the ocean crust has it in abundance and much of the mantle underlying the crust is comprised of olivine too. And there are places on the surface where it is abundant, such as ophiolites [wikipedia.org], some types of basaltic lava flows [wikipedia.org], and the occasional beach [wikipedia.org] derived from them.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is this some kind of public-private partnership to advertise for the upcoming Green Lantern movie?

  • It would be crazy if we eventually discover that life in a given solar system evolves on the strange material floating around in the protostellar disk and eventually transfers to the planets when they become hospitable enough, it would explain why life seemed to evolve so early after Earth became (theoretically) habitable.

Eureka! -- Archimedes

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