A recently discovered mineral appears to be clear but may have a tinge of light blue. No matter its color, you won't be able to make earrings from it because it can't be seen with the naked eye.
Hutcheonite, recently named after Lawrence Livermore meteorite researcher Ian Hutcheon, a Danville resident, can be seen only with high powered scanning electron microscopes. Also known by its chemical makeup, Ca3Ti2SiAl2O12, hutchenoite is a garnet-like mineral associated with the early solar system.
Hutcheonite was discovered in a refractory inclusion in the Allende meteorite by University of Hawaii's Sasha Krot and Caltech's Chi Ma and named in honor of Hutcheon. The Danville resident has made numerous contributions to the study of meteorites and what they can tell about the evolution of the early solar system, according to a release.
"I'm not in the business of discovering minerals," said Hutcheon, who has studied refractory inclusions in Allende since 1975. "But I am interested in dating when these minerals formed and what happened to them several million years after they formed."
Refractory inclusions within meteorites are the oldest objects in the solar system, dating back to 4.56 billion years ago, and were dated 30 million years older than the Earth and 287 million years older than the oldest rock known on Earth.
Allende is the largest carbonaceous chondrite meteorite ever found on Earth. It fell to the ground in 1969 over the Mexican state of Chihuahua and is notable for possessing abundant inclusions. Carbonaceous chondrites are thought to have formed as fine-grained condensates from a high temperature gas that existed early in the solar system's formation.
Hutcheonite is less than one-tenth the width of a human hair and appears to be similar to 11 of the other newly discovered minerals found in Allende.
Hutcheon also is interested in finding out when water formed on the asteroid on which Allende and other carbonaceous chondrite meteorites were put together. By looking at the concentrations of elements and isotopes in minerals found in the Allende inclusions, Hutcheon and his team can trace how water got there and ultimately how water developed in the early solar system.
If it were up to Hutcheon, he would stick strictly to meteorite research. "I would do it full time. It's great fun. Meteorites are tens of millions of years older than the moon."
In his nearly 20 years at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Hutcheon has been a key developer of nuclear forensics with significant applications to national security. He has also conducted groundbreaking work in the formation mechanisms of planets and meteorites.
Hutcheon co-wrote the definitive nuclear forensics book "Nuclear Forensic Analysis" and has been named a distinguished member of technical staff at the laboratory.