The Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University is pleased to announce the application opportunity for the 2019-2020 Nininger Meteorite Award for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing research in meteoritical sciences!
The Nininger Meteorite Award recognizes outstanding student achievement in the meteoritical sciences as embodied by an original research paper; the recipient receives $2,000 and an engraved plaque commemorating the honor.
Research topics covered under this description include, but are not limited to, physical and chemical properties of meteorites, origin of meteoritic material and cratering. Observational, experimental, statistical or theoretical investigations are allowed. Papers must cover original research conducted by the student and must have been written, submitted, or published between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020.
The Nininger Meteorite Award application deadline is April 2, 2021. Applicants must be the first, but not sole, author of the paper and must have enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at an educational institution in the United States at the time the paper was written, submitted, or published. Note that papers do not need to be published in order to qualify for submission.
June's Meteorite of the Month is Northwest Africa 725 (NWA 725), an acapulcoite achondrite found in Morocco.
As defined by the Meteoritical Society, members of the acapulcoite-lodranite group of meteorites are equigranular primitive achondrites that show subchondritic compositions, with mineral assemblages similar to, but distinct from, ordinary chondrites. Acapulcoites are finer grained than lodranites and some rare members contain relict chondrules. Based on their bulk composition and broadly chondritic mineralogy, acapulcoite-lodranite meteorites likely formed as the result of partial melting of a chondritic precursor.
Among her many achievements, Dunham was recently selected for a 51 Pegasi b Fellowship in Planetary Astronomy, which provides exceptional postdoctoral scientists with the opportunity to conduct theoretical, observational, and experimental research in planetary astronomy. Dunham will be hosted by the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences and will be studying the heritage of meteorites to develop a timeline for planet formation and other early solar system events.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I realized that I wanted to study meteorites during a class called "Planetary Materials" during my junior year of college at Case Western Reserve University. In this class, we learned about, touched and studied a huge range of meteorite samples — I couldn't get enough and pursued this field in graduate school. I felt and still feel that meteoritics falls at the perfect intersection of my astronomy, planetary science and geology passions.
Photo credit: Emilie Dunham/ASU[/caption]Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: Other than learning how to survive in 120 degree Arizona dry heat, I am continuing to learn about the importance of science communication and how it can positively affect those you engage with.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I was very excited to attend and be a part of the Center for Meteorite Studies in the School of Earth and Space Exploration because of the opportunity to work with my adviser, Professor Mini Wadhwa, the expansive meteorite collection and incredible community.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: My advice is to find and practice other passions in life that exist outside of school and research. For me, running has always been a necessary outlet and helps me approach a work-life balance.
Photo courtesy Heising-Simons Foundation[/caption]Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: The Center for Meteorite Studies suite and meteorite vault in ISTB4. Being surrounded by meteorites and a great research community inspires me to ask big questions about how the Solar System formed.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I will be working at UCLA as a 51 Pegasi b postdoctoral fellow. I get to continue studying meteorites and discovering the secrets of solar system formation!
Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration
A bright fireball followed by sonic booms was seen and heard around the northern part of the Baluchistan province of Pakistan, approximately 6:30 pm local time on 9 January 2020. Shortly thereafter, a stone fell through a house in a local village of the Mando Khel tribal area ~12 km NE of Zhob, Zhob District, Baluchistan province, Pakistan. The largest stone was found shortly after the fall by goat herders. Two more stones were subsequently found in this area.
To date, four fusion-crusted stones have been found: 6.309, ~5.5, 4.924, and 2.231 kg. The stones are blocky to rounded, with broad shallow regmaglypts, and covered with black matte fusion crust. The 6.309 kg stone is broken, exposing ~15 × 9 cm of the interior, which displays a breccia of rounded to sub-rounded, light-colored clasts in a light-gray matrix. The clasts range from 1 cm to 5 × 4 cm. The stone is easy to break and weakly consolidated. The measured density of a 24 g fragment that contains both the lithologies is 3.18 g/cm3.
The exposed surface of the 6.309 kg stone has an earthy luster, with scattered small (<1 mm) chondrules and rare troilite fragments to 4 mm. No shock veins are visible.
Get to know Center researchers with this new periodic feature!
Dr. Jemma Davidson is an Assistant Research Scientist in the ASU Center for Meteorite Studies (CMS) and School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE). Her research focuses on the petrology and isotope chemistry of a wide variety of planetary materials, including interplanetary dust particles, meteorites from Mars, the Moon, and the asteroid belt, and samples of lava flows collected on Earth.
Davidson knew she was destined for a scientific career when she studied geology at high school. The enthusiasm and encouragement of a teacher (shout out to Mr. Finn!) convinced her that studying geology was a legitimate career for a kid from a council estate.
During her undergraduate studies at Durham University in the north of England, she realized that she didn’t just want to study rocks – she wanted to study rocks from space. Even though her Earth Science department didn’t have a planetary science component she convinced her Master’s adviser to help her set up a research project working on lunar samples returned from the Moon by the Apollo 15 and 17 missions.
That was the first time I’d ever held anything extraterrestrial. While I worked on those samples they went everywhere with me – I didn’t let them out of my sight. Then each night, after locking them away and leaving the lab, I’d look up at Moon and it would blow my mind that I could see where those samples had been collected by astronauts before I was even born. I was hooked.
After graduating with a first class M.Sci. degree from Durham University in 2006, she switched focus from the Moon to even more exotic material that predates our own Solar System.
During my last year of undergraduate study, while I was working on the Apollo samples, I wrote a research paper about presolar grains in meteorites. I had literally never heard of them before but they instantly won me over.
Presolar grains are tiny, microscopic pieces of dust that form when dying stars either explode (in the case of novae and supernovae) or start to expand and slough off material that condenses as it cools. They are literally pieces of dead stars that we can study in the lab.
It’s pretty amazing to think that some meteorites preserve what are essentially fossil pieces of stars that lived and died before our Solar System even existed.
After obtaining her PhD for her presolar grain studies from The Open University in 2009, Davidson moved to the US to start a string of postdoctoral positions that would take her from the University of Arizona where she worked on the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington D.C. before she ultimately found a home as a Sun Devil at ASU in 2018.
Throughout her career, Davidson has jumped at the opportunity to work on many different types of extraterrestrial – and even terrestrial – materials.
I joke that my scientific career has Jekyll and Hyde style personalities – one side of me studies the earliest-formed Solar System materials (the really primitive stuff that hasn’t been altered since it formed 4.5 billion years ago) while the other side is interested in planetary magmatism, which occurred after large planetary bodies formed and differentiated, and represents the later stages of planetary body evolution. But there’s a common thread that runs through all my research – what materials were present at the start of our Solar System? What was destroyed? What survived? And how did this material evolve to its current state?
Answering questions like those opens up a host of research opportunities; as a cosmochemist and petrologist, Davidson has a skill set ideally suited to working on a whole variety of sample types. Over the last couple of years, Davidson has been working with SESE Director (and former CMS Director) Dr. Meenakshi (Mini) Wadhwa on meteorites from Mars and terrestrial analogs.
Mini offered me the opportunity to fill what I saw as a gap in my knowledge; a deep understanding of samples formed in large planetary-scale systems. Until then I’d mostly studied material from comets and asteroids, not planets. Studying meteorites from Mars – including the famous NWA 7034 (aka Black Beauty) – allowed me to transfer the skills I’d honed for the analysis of chondrites and IDPs and really sink my teeth into planetary-scale processes.
Davidson’s recent work has concentrated on tracing magmatic volatiles (specifically the isotopic nature and abundance of hydrogen) in minerals in martian meteorites. By performing coordinated hydrogen isotope and concentration analyses, this research aims to determine the source and timing of water in the terrestrial planets, trace how this water evolved, and further our understanding of magmatic processes on different planetary bodies. Davidson will soon extend these analyses to a suite of lava samples from Iceland.
As anyone who visits CMS will know, my office is currently teeming with Icelandic basalts and I’ll take any excuse to show them to people; they’re gorgeous but they also provide a very important way for us to understand processes occurring on Mars. We have field context for the Icelandic basalts – we know where they were collected in relation to one another and that allows us to trace the behavior of water within a suite of samples and between suites that experienced different geologic processes. We don’t know exactly where on Mars the martian meteorites came from but the Icelandic basalts provide great analogs for martian samples and will allow us to put data from those samples into context.
Davidson looks forward to the day when samples will be brought back from Mars. In the meantime, she continues to split her research focus between early Solar System materials and planetary-scale magmatic volatiles studies.
The Center for Meteorite Studies and the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) are pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Nininger Student Travel Award. The goal of this award is to support travel to the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) of up to 4 SESE undergraduate and/or graduate students to present their latest research. Note that LPSC was cancelled this year, due to Covid-19.
The awardees are:
Madeline is a 4th year undergraduate student studying Astrobiology. Her research with Professors Thomas Sharp and Mélanie Barboni focuses on impacted meteorites from the asteroid Vesta. Having characterized the petrography and impact history of her sample (NWA 8677), she now focuses on zircon grains present. Using zircon as an extremely old and reliable clock, she can analyze all of the zircon of sufficient size in her sample to obtain high-spatial resolution U-Pb ages by Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS). These ages will put timestamps on when impact events were occurring on Vesta and the crystallization age of zircon. Further analyses of element substitution (Ti, Al, Mg, Fe) in zircon by SIMS will aid in determining the initial bulk composition of the magma ocean and apparent crystallization temperature of zircon. The brilliant potential of zircon in meteorites will help to better understand the impact and geologic history of early-formed bodies in our Solar System.
Soumya is a PhD candidate in the School of Earth and Space Exploration working with Professor Meenakshi Wadhwa. Her research focuses on measuring the stable isotope composition of meteorites in the Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Laboratory at ASU. Specifically, she studies the Fe and Si isotope composition of a variety of bulk achondrites as well as mineral separates from these achondrites. At LPSC, she will present a new method for the purification of Fe and Si from the same aliquots of digested and dissolved samples. A coupled investigation of both Fe and Si isotopes in bulk meteorites and mineral separates could provide important constraints on processes occurring during accretion and differentiation of meteorite parent bodies and help answer whether Fe and Si isotopes fractionate during core formation.
Vishaal is a PhD candidate in Geological Sciences at ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, working with Professor Steve Desch and Dr. Alyssa Rhoden on Ocean World exploration. Using a three-pronged (or ‘Trident’) approach, Vishaal is developing techniques to probe the thermomechanical and compositional properties of dynamic ice shells, viewed as a remote sensing target, a site for in situ exploration, and through the depth of the shell. He combines investigations on Jupiter’s moon Europa, using remote sensing data (photometry), lab studies & modeling (ice spectroscopy and mechanics), and instrumentation development, to identify the limits of our diagnostic capabilities and new pathways for exploration. In this abstract, Vishaal and his co-authors explore the interrelationship between grain size, chemical composition, radiation processing, and thermal cycling of ice samples (and their spectra) in the lab, and test how they alter our current understanding of Europa’s surface – this is necessary to identify the likely locations of recent activity where we may find biosignatures. They find that the collected lab spectra change due to these listed parameters, but also differ from previous modeling efforts, particularly for the 1.65 μm water-ice band which is used to assess the crystallinity of the surface. This has significant implications for our understanding of how Europa’s surface ice evolves with temperature and radiation.
Zack is a PhD candidate in the School of Earth and Space Exploration advised by Professor Meenakshi Wadhwa. At LPSC, he will be presenting his work on the combined Cr, Ti, and O isotopic systematics of meteorites that was conducted in the Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Laboratory at ASU. These combined isotope systems are used to trace genetic relationships between meteorites, and the goal of this work is to measure the isotopic compositions of ungrouped chondrites for the purpose of evaluating the relationship between CM and CO chondrites. Studies of CM (and CM-like ungrouped) chondrites are particularly important as these meteorites may be analogs for the carbonaceous asteroids targeted by the ongoing OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa2 sample return missions.
The etched surface of this iron (IVA) meteorite displays a cross-hatched structure in the metal, called Widmanstätten pattern. This pattern (named for Count Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten, director of the Austrian Imperial Porcelain Works, in 1808) indicates extremely slow cooling on the order of 10o Celsius per million years. Most iron meteorites are believed to originate in the cores of large asteroids; when these asteroidal cores were exposed to the cold and vacuum of space as the result of cosmic collisions, the molten metal they comprised cooled over millions of years, resulting in the intergrown metallic lamellae seen here. Read the Meteoritical Bulletin entry for Muonionalusta, here!
The meteorite was brought to the Department of Astronomy of Ege University in Izmir, and described by Professor A. Kizilirmak, Dr. V. Buchvald, and Center for Meteorite Studies Founding Director Carleton Moore.
"According to Professor Kizilirmak the mass was discovered in August 1961, but was associated by the villagers with a burst in the air at an uncertain date of April 1961. No crops reportedly grew within a circle 2 m in diameter around the small impact hole, 30 cm deep."
85 kg (~187 lb) of the Kayakent meteorite were recovered.
A research unit of the School of Earth and Space Exploration.