What We Learned Today: All About Augite

Education Places Technology


Augite, found at Red Mountain. Photo: Jenny Williams

This is the first post in a new series that I’ll write that will share some of the things that my kids and I learn together. My kids ask me a lot of questions, and I often have the answer. But sometimes I don’t. This drives me to do some research on the internet, share the answer, and then we all learn something new together. This atmosphere of always curious, always learning, and always sharing knowledge is something I’ve worked hard to establish at my house. It’s also my attitude in regard to our homeschooling. While we do have time for formal schooling, even when we aren’t doing formal school, such as evenings, weekends, holidays, and summer, we still learn. All of us. And recently we learned about augite.

Red Mountain, FlagstaffRed Mountain, Flagstaff

Red Mountain, near Flagstaff, Arizona. Photo: Jenny Williams

This past summer we took a hike near Flagstaff, Arizona, about 100 miles from home, at a place called Red Mountain. Red Mountain used to be a volcano, but is now just a beautiful remnant of earlier geologic times. The top of the cinder cone is about 1,000 feet above the land around it. The pillars you see in the photo above are called “hoodoos.” The cone is thought to have formed about 740,000 years ago.

Not AugiteNot Augite

This is not augite, but it’s awesome in its own right. Anyone know what it is? Photo: Jenny Williams

Because Red Mountain‘s cone has eroded enough to expose the inside, we are able to see these interesting features inside. One of the kinds of debris all over the area was something we learned was augite. One of our hiking companions knew about it, which was fantastic for giving the kids something to do during the hike. They searched for augite on the ground, and we spotted it everywhere. It’s black and shiny here, and thus easy to spot among the more reddish rocks and sand.

When we got home, we washed the few pieces we’d taken with us for study, and discovered that two of the pieces floated. The rest were quite heavy and sat solidly on the bottom of the bowl. The pieces that floated were obviously of a different material. Very igneous looking to me, but I don’t know what type of rock it is. It doesn’t seem to be charred wood. Anyone know?


The augite. Photo: Jenny Williams

The augite, though, is shiny, and was mixed with a variety of other rocks and minerals. Augite is found in mafic igneous rocks, and not all varieties are as shiny as the kind we found.

Though augite seems to have a variety of appearances, the kind we found looks very similar to some of the known variations, as well as being confirmed as found at Red Mountain on Mindat.org. It is apparently also common in other parts of the state.

Being able to include an educational element to an otherwise nice hike was an added bonus, and set my kids off on a quest. As we hiked closer to the cinder cone, however, the bits of augite were easier and easier to spot, so it wasn’t a big challenge. Still, it made the hike much more memorable, and extended the learning to after the hike was over. Despite the many geology classes I have taken, augite was one rock I had not yet encountered, so it was a learning experience for all of us.

What did you learn today?

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