Gypsum Crystals: Mineral Ships for Alien Life?

Can gypsum crystals hold alien life from Mars? Explore every facet of these incredible crystals with our Mineral Sciences Curator Aaron Celestian.

Gypsum Crystals: Mineral Ships for Alien Life?

You could say that gypsum crystal is a building block for our modern lives.

Its name comes from gypsos which means "plaster" in Greek, and gypsum crystals are ubiquitous in our human world. Combine the dry powdered crystals with water and you've more or less got gypsos for building, most commonly used today in things like drywall and gypsum blocks that are similar to concrete. Gypsum also plays a key role in making other construction materials like cement.

Iridescence along cleavage plane of gypsum from NHM Collections
This image of gypsum from NHM's collection showcases the iridescent side of the mineral.
Photo by Stan Celestian

But it's much more than a construction material. Gypsum's chemical properties, crystal structure, and particular response to heat make it an invaluable ingredient for everything from toothpaste and fertilizer to clay tennis courts and tofu, and Mineral Sciences Curator Aaron Celestian thinks Martian gypsum crystals might include their own incredible ingredient: alien life. Find out how and why in the video above.