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Beryllium is a very light element and it is almost transparent to X-rays. It also resists corrosion very well. So this metal has many applications, including being used to make X-ray tubes. The X-ray tubes are not the only thing that beryllium can do: it is also used in spacecraft components like the gyroscopes that allow rockets to tell how fast they are moving. This particular sphere belongs to a guidance and gyroscope system for the Saturn V rocket that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon.
As you can see from the picture, it is pretty large. It is also quite heavy, weighing about 10 grams.
Ed Pegg got this from Brush-Wellman, a company that has been refining and producing beryllium for 25 years. Brush-Wellman sells beryllium as rod, ingot, disc, granule, and wire. They also produce a number of beryllium alloys. This is a non-sparking beryllium-copper alloy, the kind that would be used for tools that need to be fairly strong and reasonably hard but that are more importantly designed to not create sparks when they are being used. Such tools are often used on oil well equipment, for example, where flammable gas is present.
While straight beryllium is not very expensive, the alloys are a lot more costly. Beryllium is a rare element. The majority of the beryllium that exists on earth is found in a few minerals, such as bertrandite and chrysoberyl. It is also produced by cosmic rays that pass through the galaxy and slam into heavier elements such as hydrogen or helium. The resulting neutrons then create new elements such as beryllium.