Exploring Rocks: What Are Thin Sections

Ultrathin slices of rock mounted on glass slides are called thin sections. Standard thin sections are 30 microns (0.03 millimeters) thick, only slightly thicker than the 1 mil plastic film found in sandwich bags and plastic wrap. The optical properties of minerals -- what you see when you look through the microscope -- vary with the thickness of the mineral slice. Quality thin sections have a uniform thickness of 30 microns. This standardization makes it possible for geologists to recognize minerals as they appear through the microscope.

A polarizing microscope, a thin section and an observant eye are the only tools required to enter the microscopic world of rocks.


 

A thin Section

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Microscope used to photograph Splendor n Stone

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