Aphanite, or aphanitic as an adjective (from the Greek αφανης, “invisible”), is a name given to certain igneous rocks that are so fine-grained that their component mineral crystals are not detectable by the unaided eye (as opposed to phaneritic igneous rocks, where the minerals are visible to the unaided eye). This geological texture results from rapid cooling in volcanic or hypabyssal (shallow subsurface) environments. As a rule, the texture of these rocks is not the same as that of volcanic glass(e.g., obsidian), with volcanic glass being non-crystalline (amorphous), and having a glass-like appearance.
Aphanites are commonly porphyritic, having large crystals embedded in the fine groundmass or matrix. The large inclusions are called phenocrysts.
They consist essentially of very fine-grained minerals, such as plagioclase feldspar, with hornblende or augite, and may contain also biotite, quartz, and orthoclase.
Igneous rock (derived from the Latin word ignis meaning fire), or magmatic rock, is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava. The magma can be derived from partial melts of existing rocks in either a planet’s mantle or crust. Typically, the melting is caused by one or more of three processes: an increase in temperature, a decrease in pressure, or a change in composition. Solidification into rock occurs either below the surface as intrusive rocks or on the surface as extrusive rocks. Igneous rock may form with crystallization to form granular, crystalline rocks, or without crystallization to form natural glasses.
Igneous and metamorphic rocks make up 90–95% of the top 16 km of the Earth’s crust by volume.Igneous rocks form about 15% of the Earth’s current land surface. Most of the Earth’s oceanic crust is made of igneous rock.
Igneous rocks are also geologically important because:
- their minerals and global chemistry give information about the composition of the mantle, from which some igneous rocks are extracted, and the temperature and pressure conditions that allowed this extraction, and/or of other pre-existing rock that melted;
- their absolute ages can be obtained from various forms of radiometric dating and thus can be compared to adjacent geological strata, allowing a time sequence of events;
- their features are usually characteristic of a specific tectonic environment, allowing tectonic reconstitutions (see plate tectonics);
- in some special circumstances they host important mineral deposits (ores): for example, tungsten, tin, and uranium are commonly associated with granites and diorites, whereas ores of chromium and platinum are commonly associated with gabbros.
Intrusive igneous rocks are formed from magma that cools and solidifies within the crust of a planet, surrounded by pre-existing rock (called country rock); the magma cools slowly and, as a result, these rocks are coarse-grained. The mineral grains in such rocks can generally be identified with the naked eye. Intrusive rocks can also be classified according to the shape and size of the intrusive body and its relation to the other formations into which it intrudes. Typical intrusive formations are batholiths, stocks, laccoliths, sills and dikes. When the magma solidifies within the earth’s crust, it cools slowly forming coarse textured rocks, such as granite, gabbro, or diorite.
The central cores of major mountain ranges consist of intrusive igneous rocks, usually granite. When exposed by erosion, these cores (called batholiths) may occupy huge areas of the Earth’s surface.
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