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Mineral first identified in lunar meteorite named after former USGS Astrogeology Scientist

December 8, 2020

First identified in a meteorite found in Africa in 2014, the calcium-aluminum silicate mineral has been named in honor of lunar geologist and USGS Astrogeology alumnus Dr. Don E. Wilhelms.


A mineral named after Dr. Don E. Wilhelms

The mineral forms in the high-pressure conditions during the first few milliseconds (or less) of an impact cratering event, specifically in silicate rocks that are rich in calcium and aluminum. Donwilhelmsite can also form in Earth’s mantle (deep under Earth’s crust) when silicate crustal rocks that are high in aluminum get recycled under high pressure conditions.

Dr. Don Wilhelms joined USGS Astrogeology (Menlo Park) as a lunar geologist in 1962. Wilhelms was instrumental in geologic training of astronauts during the Apollo Program, early geologic mapping of the Moon, and landing site selection. Wilhelms wrote two foundational texts on lunar geology: “A Rocky Moon: A Geologist’s History of the Moon” and “The Geologic History of the Moon”.

Want to learn more about this new mineral and its namesake? The donwilhelmsite mineral and its analysis, occurrence, and properties are summarized in this article in American Mineralogist and entered into the database. You can also learn more about the life of Dr. Wilhelms and what it was like to train astronauts in geology in his interview with the American Institute of Physics.

By Lori Pigue