Barium is a chemical element. It has the symbol Ba, and atomic number 56. Barium is a soft silvery metallic alkaline earth metal. It is never found in nature in its pure form due to its reactivity with air. Its oxide is historically known as baryta but it reacts with water and carbon dioxide and is not found as a mineral. The most common naturally occurring minerals are the very insoluble barium sulfate, BaSO4 (barite), and barium carbonate, BaCO3 (witherite). Benitoite is a rare gem containing barium.
Barium is a metallic element that is chemically similar to calcium but more reactive. This metal oxidizes very easily when exposed to air and is highly reactive with water or alcohol, producing hydrogen gas. Burning in air or oxygen produces not just barium oxide (BaO) but also the peroxide. Simple compounds of this heavy element are notable for their high specific gravity. This is true of the most common barium-bearing mineral, its sulfate barite BaSO4, also called 'heavy spar' due to the high density (4.5 g/cm³).
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