Anderson, Alfred T., Jr. Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Last reviewed:October 2019
- Extrusion of basalt
- Form and structure
- Physical properties
- Mineralogy and texture
- Chemical composition
- Lunar basalts
- Meteoritic basalts
- Tectonic environment and origin
- Chemical and mineralogical variations
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
An igneous rock characterized by small grain size (less than about 0.2 in. or 5 mm) and approximately equal proportions of calcium-rich plagioclase feldspar and calcium-rich pyroxene, with less than about 20% by volume of other minerals. Olivine, calcium-poor pyroxene, and iron-titanium oxide minerals are the most prevalent other minerals. Certain rare varieties of basalts are poor in SiO2 and rich in melilite, olivine, and nepheline and may be poor in calcium-rich plagioclase and pyroxene. Most basalts are dark gray or black, but some are light gray. Various structures and textures of basalts are useful in inferring both their igneous origin and their environment of emplacement. Basalts are the predominant surficial igneous rocks on the Earth, Moon, and probably other bodies in the solar system. Several chemical-mineralogical types of basalts are recognized. The nature of basaltic rocks provides helpful clues about the composition and temperature within the Earth and Moon. The magnetic properties of basalts are responsible in large part for present knowledge of the past behavior of the Earth's magnetic field and of the rate of seafloor spreading. See also: Igneous rocks
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