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Rare moon mineral? Not really

world Updated: Jan 06, 2012 00:18 IST

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A mineral brought back to earth by the first men on the moon and long thought to be unique to the lunar surface has been found in Australian rocks more than one billion years old, scientists said Thursday.

Named after Apollo 11's 1969 landing site at the Sea of Tranquillity, tranquillityite was one of three minerals first discovered in rocks from the moon and the only one not to be found, in subsequent years, on earth.

Australian scientist Birger Rasmussen said tranquillityite had “long been considered as the moon’s own mineral” until geologists discovered it, by chance, in rock from resources-rich western Australia.

“In over 40 years it hadn't been found in any terrestrial samples,” Rasmussen, from Curtin University, told AFP.

When the moon samples first came back Rasmussen said they were considered to be “extremely precious” and had been subjected to intense, detailed study when — ironically — their contents were “right here all the time.”