A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...
with the symbol Ce and atomic number
In chemistry and physics, the atomic number is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a chemical element...
58. It is a soft, silvery, ductile metal which easily oxidizes in air. Cerium was named after the dwarf planet
A dwarf planet, as defined by the International Astronomical Union , is a celestial body orbiting the Sun that is massive enough to be spherical as a result of its own gravity but has not cleared its neighboring region of planetesimals and is not a satellite...
(itself named for the Roman goddess of agriculture
In ancient Roman religion, Ceres was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships. She was originally the central deity in Rome's so-called plebeian or Aventine Triad, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina in what Romans described as "the Greek rites of Ceres"...
). Cerium is the most abundant of the rare earth element
Rare earth element
As defined by IUPAC, rare earth elements or rare earth metals are a set of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table, specifically the fifteen lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium...
s, making up about 0.0046% of the Earth's crust by weight. It is found in a number of minerals, the most important being monazite
Monazite is a reddish-brown phosphate mineral containing rare earth metals. It occurs usually in small isolated crystals. There are actually at least four different kinds of monazite, depending on relative elemental composition of the mineral:...
The mineral bastnäsite is one of a family of three carbonate-fluoride minerals, which includes bastnäsite- with a formula of CO3F, bastnäsite- with a formula of CO3F, and bastnäsite- with a formula of CO3F. Most bastnäsite is bastnäsite-, and cerium is by far the most common of the rare earths in...
. Commercial applications of cerium are numerous.