A Stranger in Paradise

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Science  18 Nov 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5751, pp. 1125-1126
DOI: 10.1126/science.1121022

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Chemical wisdom has it that the "noble" gases such as xenon are chemically unreactive. Yet xenon appears to be depleted in the atmospheres of Mars and Earth. Could xenon be forming chemical compounds with the minerals in the crusts of these planets? In his Perspective, McMillan discusses results reported in the same issue by Sanloup et al. in which optical spectroscopy and x-ray diffraction have been used to show that xenon can react with natural silicate species to form compounds at the pressure and temperature conditions found in Earth's crust. Under the right conditions, such high-pressure solid-state chemistry may extend to other noble gases.