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Bath salts from Jupiter

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of PainScience.com: a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Epsomite” has been identified on Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Phil Plait:

[Astronomers] Brown and Hand, using the monster 10-meter Keck telescope, discovered the presence of magnesium sulfate—MgSO4, a mineral called epsomite—on Europa’s trailing hemisphere (but not the leading half). This has never been seen before, even by probes sent to look at the moon.

This also contributes to the case that Europa has a large ocean lurking under its icy surface, which could be hospitable for life.

Europa — one of the coolest moons in the solar system. Get your Epsom salts here! Step right up!

And, yes, I am writing about this here because this stuff is indeed the same mineral (magnesium sulfate) that you’d put in your bath to pretend you are easing your aches and pains with something more biologically clever than relaxation and heat.

Epsomite is the mineral form of Epsom salts, which naturally occur mainly in encrustations and effloresences (coatings on porous rock). But the rare crystalline form is fibrous and looks like fur! And there’s also a rare acicular form — spikey! In my imagination, all the epsomite on Europa is fibrous and acicular.

Encrusted epsomite (mineral magnesium sulfate), its most common form.

More exotic fibrous epsomite.

Acicular (spikey) epsomite, very teensy. This view is under a millimetre wide.