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Earth Science

Where Has All the Xenon Gone? 225

Posted by timothy
from the went-into-hallmark-mylar-balloons-by-accident dept.
LucidBeast writes "Xenon, the second heaviest of the noble gasses, is only found in trace amounts in the atmosphere. Atmosphere contains less xenon than other lighter noble gasses. Missing xenon has perplexed scientists and it has been speculated that it is hiding in the Earth's mantle. Now, a group at the University of Bayreuth in Germany thinks it might have found the answer. It turns out that xenon does not dissolve easily into magnesium silicate perovskite, and thus it cannot hide there. Because it had no place to hide, it is now gone forever."
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Where Has All the Xenon Gone?

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  • Canadians Reserves (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dareth (47614) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @08:43AM (#41618063)

    Canada has a Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve [theatlantic.com].

  • by WillAdams (45638) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @08:45AM (#41618085) Homepage

    Problem is, the U.S. is getting out of the rare gas business:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/11/AR2010101104496.html [washingtonpost.com]

    So one can't even convincingly joke about it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 11, 2012 @08:46AM (#41618099)

    I'm confused: did it go out into upper atmosphere or space like helium (seems unlikely @~10x weight of nitrogen & oxygen), did alchemists turn it into gold or did we overestimate the amount there initially was? not seeing how the "conservation of mass" loop is being closed here...

  • by Logger (9214) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @09:12AM (#41618339) Homepage

    I interpreted the poorly written article to mean. The forming rocks could absorb the other noble gases just fine, but not xenon. I infer this would have left an atmosphere (at the time) that was rich in xenon since very little of it was absorbed into the rock. The article speculated that some form of meteorite collision or solar event blew off the atmosphere. Leaving me to infer that the atmosphere we have today is the result of the rock releasing gas into the atmosphere. Since the rock was xenon poor, today's atmosphere is also xenon poor as a result.

  • Re:Wha?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @09:36AM (#41618561)

    I was confused as hell, but here is what I've gleaned:

    1. Most noble gases were dissolved in/embedded in the early Earth's rock.
    2. Xenon due to a variety of factors, did not behave in a similar manner, and thus was free floating in the early atmosphere.
    3. A 'big event', like the event that caused Earth's moon to form also knocked the original atmosphere into space.
    4. Because almost all of the xenon was in the atmosphere at the time of the event, it was literally lost (from the perspective of the Earth) to space and was either acquired by the other planets or sun, or blown by the solar wind out to the edge of the solar system and beyond.
    5. Some small amounts of xenon were recaptured by Earth (like how the bits that formed the moon are still 'bound' to Earth) and those small amounts are what we measure in our current atmosphere.

    In short:

    Xenon exists in the atmosphere, not rocks. Impact event knocks off Earth's atmosphere (and the Xenon), Earth's atmosphere is replaced by outgassing from the previously saturated rock. The rock did not contain Xenon, so we have only trace amounts today.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 11, 2012 @10:25AM (#41619073)

    Which coincides nicely with the planetary impact hypothesis for the Moon's origin.

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