petrology, branch of geology specifically concerned with the origin, composition, structure, and properties of rocks, primarily igneous and metamorphic, and secondarily sedimentary. It includes petrography, the systematic description and classification of rocks using microscopic examination of rock in thin sections; and petrogenesis, which deals with the origin and formation of the various kinds of rock. Petrology is also concerned with the laboratory simulation of rock-forming processes and the application of principles of physical chemistry to natural environments. Petrologic analyses of oceanic rocks have given insights into plate tectonic processes, especially rock from mid-oceanic ridges, which may be formed from magma derived from deep in the mantle. Lunar rocks returned by Apollo astronauts were studied with petrographic techniques providing a wealth of information on the makeup and origin of the moon.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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