The red centre of Australia produces 95% of the world's opals and until recently scientists struggled to explain the origns of the precious stone. However, it is now believed that opals may provide astrobiologists with insights into the mysterious geology of Mars, the red planet.
Glittering in vibrant colours, opals are a beautiful gemstone and will add a unique, yet elegant touch to your jewellery collection. Lawson Gems has a stunning collection of ethically sourced opals embedded into lovely jewellery pieces as well as unset opals.
Lawson Gems' White Opal Pendant is a beautiful Australian opal that sparkles an array of silky natural colours, creating an elegant and distinctive piece.
Lawson Gems also has a stunning collection of unique Unset Opals.
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Opals are predominantly found within 50 meters of the red earth surface of the Great Artisian Basin in Central Australia, yet the reasons why they are found here has been a long mystery. Professor Patrice Rey, a University of Sydney associate explains, "We did not know its origin, why it forms at such shallow depths or why it can be found in central Australia and almost nowhere else on earth." Rey believes the precious stone was created as a result of the drying out of the Eromanga Sea, which at its peak covered about 60 percent of Australia; from Coober Pedy in South Australia to Lightning Ridge in northen New South Wales.
This drying out process, which began approximately 100 million years ago, is bizarre weathering for Earth and has been described as an ‚Äúextraordinary episode of acidic weathering.‚ÄĚ However, this weathering is not unusual on Mars, suggesting connections between the planet and the Great Artisian Basin. Furthermore, these connections would also suggest the basin shares additional characteristics with the Mars, inclduing types of rocks, a similar history of flooding then drying out, mineralogy and color.
NASA discovered non-precious opal deposits on Mars in 2008. "If you look at Mars and the red centre, they share similar characteristics," Professor Rey said. "They went through the same weathering process, so potentially precious opals might exist there." These opal deposits indicate that Mars could have been wet for a billion years longer that initially thought. Thus, these findings could signifcantly impact the possibility of life on Mars if these findings are confirmed by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Dr Scott Mundie of John Hopkins University explains, "Water may have existed as recently as two billion years ago. It extends the time range for liquid water on Mars, and the places where it might have supported life."
Sending rovers and orbiters to Mars seems like a reasonable approach to answering the long anticipated myteries of the red planet. However, Rey explains that the answers could be here on Earth, "It costs billions of dollars to send rovers and orbiters to Mars. Therefore, looking right here on Earth for ancient and modern analogs to Mars' environment is key to carrying on research in greater detail and explore the role biology has in weathering processes."