Sign in

Keeping science accessible. Researching how minerals can be used to solve problems like climate change, pollution, and disease. @ NHMLA, USC, NASA-JPL
Apatite, Natural History Museum of Los Angele, photo by Stan Celestian.

Rare earth elements (REEs) are a group of similar chemical elements that have become an important research area in the mineral and materials sciences communities due to their potential use in energy generation and storage, for a greener Earth. The element neodymium (Nd) makes very powerful magnets, lanthanum (La) and…


Standing wave (black) and oscillation nodes (red dots).

To analyze a crystallization event in a liquid, you typically have to put the crystal on (or in) something. Most of the time that isn’t a problem, but what if you were required to look at the shape of the droplet? Or a live bug that you don’t want crawling…


and what it could tell us planetary processes in our solar system

Looking deep into Earth, Mars, and Moon. The types of minerals we might find on Mars, Ceres, and icy moons could give us clues about their past and current geological processes. Minerals are often used as a way of reconstructing past environments, because they can change depending on how the environment changes, including what life had done. And when the environment changes, the minerals are usually the only things robust enough to record what had happened. However, in order for geologists to be able to interpret the past events on places other than Earth, we need to know the geological conditions that led to mineral formation under a huge range of conditions. Image

When you squeeze something, it should get smaller — that’s just common sense. You squeeze a sponge to make it smaller, so that water gets pushed out. But why doesn’t the water compress along with the sponge as you squeeze it? Why doesn’t the water stay in the sponge, but…


Nearly a mile underground in the Northeast part of England, there are crystals and life, so that’s where I went.

Steel beams support the mine walls along a salt road 1.1 km below the surface of the Earth.

I was part of a NASA Jet Propulsion Lab team to go deep underground in search of bacteria, and if found, determine if they are alive or dead. If they…


Getting your research published in a “peer-reviewed” scientific journal is still the gold standard for acceptance by the broader scientific community — despite its many problems — and I’m guilty of following this model, sorry. There are currently over 28,000 active scientific journals, some are good, and some are predatory


Ooids from Cat Bay, Bahamas.

Have you ever watched a bug or a lizard on a cold morning? They remain motionless until the sun warms them. You can pick it up, and it won’t do anything to escape. The viral videos of a Florida iguana on a winter cold-snap is a great example. …


A museum mineral collection is a vast repository of Earth and planetary materials. It is a resource for researchers looking to gain access to the rarest minerals and gems, and those that are looking for intricate details in species variation. Some researchers need access to common minerals, but don’t have…


Toxic and radioactive metals left over from the nuclear fuel cycle are of primary concern to the health of humans and the environment. Why? Because as the uranium from the reactor core ‘burns’, it decays to other elements, and leaving a pile of toxic material. Most of these remaining elements…


Climate change has many impacts on our planet. Some of the ones you might hear about in the news include sea-level rise caused by melting ice and ocean heating, increases in wildfires because of long-term droughts, changes in extreme weather events due to variations in atmospheric heating, and acidification of…


Crystals are fun and easy to grow, and it’s a great introduction to the sciences. Anyone can grow beautiful crystals, you just need a little bit of time and a couple of ingredients. I decided to write this post because my son’s teacher wanted to add some crystal growing experiments…

Aaron Celestian, Ph.D.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store