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Minerals are highly abundant on Earth and other planets. A “mineral” is a solid substance that has a well defined atomic crystal structure and chemical composition. Ice, for example, is considered a mineral because it has a crystal structure (think of six-sided snowflakes) and the composition H2O. Rocks are naturally occurring solids that are composed of one or more minerals.

At an April presentation for the Space Telescope Science Institute in Washington, D.C., Robert Hazen explained that as life evolved and grew more complex on Earth, so did the number of minerals. By extension, this could mean that a planet with more minerals would have life on it.

“The basic idea is if you look at Earth and other terrestrial planets, the near surface environment has changed dramatically through time — 4.5 billion years of history — and those planets manifested very dramatic changes in mineralogy,” said Hazen, an earth science professor at George Mason University in Washington, D.C.

In simpler terms, that means that when a planet is formed, it would only have a few minerals and that over time, the presence of life would add to the mineral complexity. At first glance, this seems counter intuitive since minerals are lifeless. Hazen said mineral abundance increases because life alters the near-surface environment, forming complex chemical and physical micro-environments that change over time.

What’s more exciting is that scientists are just beginning to figure out the composition of planets outside of our solar system, which means that it could one day be possible to estimate if a planet has life based on the elements visible in telescopes.

- See more at: http://www.astrobio.net/news-exclusive/complex-mineral-surfaces-indications-life/#sthash.5PRvkryx.dpuf

Minerals are highly abundant on Earth and other planets. A “mineral” is a solid substance that has a well defined atomic crystal structure and chemical composition. Ice, for example, is considered a mineral because it has a crystal structure (think of six-sided snowflakes) and the composition H2O. Rocks are naturally occurring solids that are composed of one or more minerals.

At an April presentation for the Space Telescope Science Institute in Washington, D.C., Robert Hazen explained that as life evolved and grew more complex on Earth, so did the number of minerals. By extension, this could mean that a planet with more minerals would have life on it.

“The basic idea is if you look at Earth and other terrestrial planets, the near surface environment has changed dramatically through time — 4.5 billion years of history — and those planets manifested very dramatic changes in mineralogy,” said Hazen, an earth science professor at George Mason University in Washington, D.C.

In simpler terms, that means that when a planet is formed, it would only have a few minerals and that over time, the presence of life would add to the mineral complexity. At first glance, this seems counter intuitive since minerals are lifeless. Hazen said mineral abundance increases because life alters the near-surface environment, forming complex chemical and physical micro-environments that change over time.

What’s more exciting is that scientists are just beginning to figure out the composition of planets outside of our solar system, which means that it could one day be possible to estimate if a planet has life based on the elements visible in telescopes.

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