The Nininger Student Travel Award supports attendance of the 2022 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) of 4 School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) undergraduate and graduate students, to present their latest results in the field of meteoritics and planetary sciences. Awards will be up to $1000 for those attending in person, and will cover the registration fee for those attending virtually.
Catch up with Center alumni through this periodic feature!
Dr. Matthew Sanborn received his doctoral degree in 2012, from the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration. His dissertation research in the Center (The petrogenesis of angrites and martian meteorites inferred from isotope and trace element systematics) focused on understanding the petrogenesis of angrite meteorites and deciphering magmatic processes occurring in the early Solar System, as well as further refining knowledge of the initial isotopic abundances in the early Solar System as recorded by their isotopic systematics.
He is currently a Staff Research Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, on the Clean Chemistry team in the Nuclear and Radiochemistry group. Sanborn’s current research involves using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) instruments (both single and multi-collector) for nuclear forensics applications including low-level environmental analysis, analyses in support of treaty monitoring, as well as radiochemistry research and development projects.
Prior to Los Alamos National Laboratory, he was Assistant Project Scientist at the University of California, Davis, where he investigated nucleosynthetic isotopic anomalies (e.g., Cr and Ti) and short-lived chronometers (e.g, Mn-Cr and Al-Mg) in achondrites and chondrites using Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS) and ICP-MS instruments.
The main goal of this research was to utilize Cr and Ti as isotopic fingerprints to trace planetary differentiation processes and source regions for various meteorites in the early Solar System and the chronometers to elucidate timescales.
"I have been lucky since leaving ASU to continue to collaborate with fellow CMS alumni in meteorite research." says Sanborn. "While my main work no longer focuses as much on cosmochemistry, I try to stay active in the NASA and Cosmochemistry community through collaborations and service work."
January's Meteorite of the Month is Leighton, an ordinary (H5) chondrite that fell in Alabama in 1907.
According to the Field Museum's Oliver Cummings Farrington (1910):
This meteorite fell at 8 P. M., Sunday, January 12, 1907, eight miles south of Leighton, Colbert County, Alabama. The exact place of fall was near the old Bethel church in township 5, range 10, est of the Huntsville meridian. So far as is known to the writer only a single stone of the fall is preserved. To Dr. A. Graves of Leighton and Professor E. A. Smith of the University of Alabama the [Field] Museum is indebted for such information as it possesses regarding the fall.
According to Dr. Graves the meteor which produced the meteorite passed over the region with a mighty roar which ended in a report something like pistol-firing in rapid succession and from which "particles flew like sparks from a coal of fire." A stone from this meteor struck in the yard of the residence of Mrs. M. D. Allen. Mrs. Allen and her daughter Mattie were standing on their front porch and saw the striking of a stone in the yard. On going to the place they found the stone which is now preserved, sunken to the depth of about 12 inches. This stone weighed one pound and fifteen ounces (877 grams). About one ounce was chipped off from one corner by the parties who found the stone, in order to examine its interior.
Farrington, O. C. (1910) Meteorite Studies III. FIeld Museum of Natural History – Geology 111(8): 165-169.
Compliments of the Season and best wishes for the New Year, from the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies!
This photograph shows an area of metal in Oued Bourdim 001 stain-etched with sodium bisulfite. The kamacite is stained a kaleidoscope of colors. Tetrataenite/taenite is bright and shiny and the fine-grained plessite is dark. Photo ⓒ ASU/CMS/Garvie.
To celebrate of 60 years of the BCMS, we’re posting stories of historical Center events, new research initiatives, exciting outreach programs, conservation and growth of the Center’s invaluable meteorite collection. We invite you to follow us on social media, and share your memories and photos of the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies using #CMS60.
In 1957, Sputnik’s launch put space exploration at the forefront of the American conscience. The following year, Harvey H. Nininger, the famous meteorite hunter and self-taught meteoriticist, sold a portion of his collection to the British Natural History Museum.
The Coordinator of Research at Arizona State University, George A. Boyd, was familiar with Nininger's collection and recognized its importance to Arizona and to ASU's pursuit of research in an up-and-coming discipline. Boyd, working with the chair of the Chemistry Department, Clyde A. Crowley, and ASU President, Grady Gammage, solicited a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in order to purchase the remainder of Nininger's collection and bring it to ASU.
To bolster its proposal, ASU offered supporting funds from both the ASU Foundation and from Mr. Herbert G. Fales, then vice president of International Nickel Company (Inco), who was familiar with Nininger through his own interest in meteorites. The NSF also recognized the importance of keeping the remainder of Nininger's collection in the United States and accepted the ASU proposal on June 8, 1960.
Acting on behalf of ASU, Mr. Fales traveled to Connecticut's Wesleyan University to recruit Dr. Carleton B. Moore as director of the newly formed Center for Meteorite Studies and the rest, as they say, is history!
In 2015, a plaque was unveiled at the Center to commemorate Herbert G. Fales, a steadfast supporter and early Center contributor, without whom ASU’s world class meteorite collection may never have come to be.
Herbert G. Fales was a metallurgist and an aviation pioneer, who started as a Navy officer in charge of testing metals during World War I. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he pursued a 45-year career with Inco. In 1973, the ASU Alumni Association conferred on him the Alumni Appreciation Award, honoring non-alums for exemplary service to the ASU community. Due to his steadfast support and dedication to the ASU Center for Meteorite Studies, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by ASU in 1975.
Photo credit: ASU/CMS. CMS Founding Director Dr. Carleton B. Moore and Mr. Gordon Fales, son of Mr. Herbert G. Fales stand near the newly unveiled commemorative plaque at the Center for Meteorite Studies.
Wold Cottage is an ordinary (L6) chondrite that fell in the East Riding of Yorkshire, United Kingdom, December 13th of 1795.
This meteorite fell at a time when the occurence of rocks falling from the sky was still the subect of heated debate. In fact, though the Wold Cottage meteorite fall was witnessed by several people, and even fell on land owned by a well-known newspaper proprietor and major who collected the witnesses’ sworn testimonies, some skeptics persisted in their disbelief for years after the fall.
The landowner, however, highly publicized the fall at Wold Cottage, erecting a monument at the location of the fall and exhibiting the stone in Picadilly, where he charged a shilling to view the meteorite (Burke, 1986).
The publicity surrounding Wold Cottage, as well as its scientific study along with that of other recovered meteorites by leading researchers of the day, lent weight to the emerging view that rocks could and did fall from the sky (Pillinger & Pillinger, 1996). Sources that were intially suggested for meteorites included the ejection of stones from lunar volcanoes, and the formation of rocks in Earth’s atmosphere.
Although postulated before the Wold Cottage fall, the cosmic origin of these rocks was not accepted until much later, after the discovery of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter in the early 1800s, and the falls of the L’Aigle meteorite in 1803 and the Weston meteorite in 1807.
She is presently a Visiting Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (USRA) / NASA Johnson Space Center, where her current research focuses on the study of chemical, microstructural, and isotopic characteristics of meteorites. She analyzes Calcium-Aluminum-rich Inclusions (CAIs) to decipher the chronology of early Solar System events, observes the recorded nucleosynthetic anomalies in them, and studies their microstructural characteristics to determine the mechanisms of CAI formation. She also analyzes martian meteorites for their hydrogen isotopic composition to understand the evolution of martian water reservoirs.
Dr. Mane has a strong interest in developing new laboratory techniques to study cosmochemistry and isotope geochemistry of meteorites and samples returned from various planetary missions in order to significantly advance knowledge of the building blocks of the Solar System.
Founded in 1961, the center is one of ASU’s first established research institutes and houses one of the world's largest university-based meteorite collections. Over the past 60 years, meteorites from the collection have been used in scientifically important research, from probing the history of the solar system and its evolution, to the existence of extraterrestrial organic compounds and water, to the origins of life.
Recently, the Center for Meteorite Studies was named in Buseck's honor, now known as the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies
“Meteorites are important because they provide insight into the surfaces and interiors of other planets, processes that went on when the solar system was forming, and which organic compounds — such as certain amino acids — were transported by meteorites from space to Earth,” said Buseck.
Buseck, with faculty appointments in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Molecular Sciences, has a long connection with meteoritics. His first paper on meteorites in the journal Science was published in 1968.
Throughout his nearly six-decade career at ASU, he and his students and postdocs have been recognized for their pioneering work in the nanomineralogy of meteorites and interplanetary dust particles. Buseck, with postdoc Kazu Tomeoka, performed the first high-resolution transmission electron microscopy analysis of meteorites. One class of meteorites Buseck has studied, carbonaceous chondrites, are important because of their connection to organic compounds, life’s origins and the scientific understanding of the solar system.
“Carbonaceous chondrites in our collection have provided decades of insights into the evolution of asteroids in the early solar system,” said Center for Meteorite Studies interim Director Devin Schrader. “These studies are invaluable for understanding samples returned from asteroids by recent space missions. In the past year, Martian meteoritesfrom the collection were used to constrain the abundance and isotopic composition of water in Mars’ crust. This furthers our understanding of Mars, a planet that could have potentially supported life, and provides invaluable data for potential in situ resource utilization for future crewed exploration missions.”
Buseck and his group have published an impressive 16 papers in the high-prestige journals Science and Nature on meteorites and interplanetary dust particles — 40 papers in all, on these and other topics. Buseck recently received the Roebling Medal from the Mineralogical Society of America (2019) and the David Sinclair Award from the American Association of Aerosol Research (2021), these being the highest awards given by the organizations. In 2012, Buseck had a meteorite mineral, buseckite, named after him for his many contributions to meteorite research and mineralogy.
“I have been privileged to study these scientifically important messengers throughout my career,” Buseck said, “and to share that journey of investigation with many talented PhD students and postdocs who now have flourishing careers. Examples include Tom Sharp, who is a valued colleague here at ASU; Kazu Tomeoka at Kobe University; Lindsay Keller at NASA; Donald Eisenhour, a corporate executive; Laurence Garvie, who is at ASU; and Tom Zega, among many others."
Tom Zega, a professor at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, earned his PhD under Buseck’s guidance.
“Peter pioneered the application of transmission electron microscopy to the study of minerals, whether they originated from land, the sky or from space,” Zega said. “Some of his earliest work on meteorites was measurement of phosphorous chemistry in iron meteorites. That effort expanded into work on many other types of meteorites, including primitive carbonaceous chondrites. Peter’s group did some of the groundbreaking characterization work on the fine-grained matrix components of different classes of carbonaceous chondrites, including the discovery by postdoc Kazushige Tomeoka that the most compositionally primitive chondrites, with compositions most similar to the sun, are entirely hydrated. This was a key discovery in understanding the role water played on asteroids in the early solar system and is now extremely relevant to the samples being measured from JAXA's Hayabusa2 mission, and we expect will be important for the analysis of samples brought back by NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission.
“I think that one of the things I valued most about Peter,” Zega continued, “was that he gave me (and other group members) the freedom to work on problems that interested us and find our own way. Yes, there were broad research themes in cosmochemistry, mineral physics and atmospheric chemistry, and Peter would advise and give suggestions, but he did not constantly look over our shoulder demanding results. I think Peter trusted that if he gave talented students and postdocs that freedom, good science would eventually result from it, as it repeatedly did with people in his research group. I always appreciated that, and I try to model that approach with my own students and postdocs.”
Buseck has not only had an esteemed career of over 58 years at ASU, but also has philanthropically supported areas across the institution for the past three decades. His generosity has made a positive impact on the School of Earth and Space Exploration, School of Molecular Sciences, Center for Meteorite Studies, Arizona PBS, President’s Club, Jewish Studies, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, and through an endowment in Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the Alice and Peter Buseck Scholarship for Piano Students, which honors his late wife. Professor Buseck’s generosity helps to advance areas he is passionate about and will continue to do so in perpetuity.
“Over the last few decades, the center has established its reputation for cutting-edge research on meteorites and returned samples from spacecraft missions,” said School of Earth and Space Exploration Director Meenakshi Wadhwa. “Naming it the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies not only honors Professor Buseck’s significant contributions and legacy in cosmochemistry research, but will also raise the profile and impact of this center and its research in the broader scientific community.”
ASU Provost and Executive Vice President Nancy Gonzales said, “Peter and the Center for Meteorite Studies both contribute unswervingly to ASU’s reputation as a leading research institution. Peter’s research, along with the research of others who have utilized the center’s collection, have greatly contributed to our understanding of the solar system and our place within it.”
Buseck's research will have lasting significance.
“Often when we do science," Zega observed, "we don’t know what its impact will be, whether near- or long-term. In Peter’s case, he and his group have made transformative contributions across multiple fields of science, spanning six decades, that will last well into the future.”
That future will continue through research at the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies. The mission of the center is to create and share new knowledge in the field of meteoritics and related disciplines. The scientists and staff at the center do this through cutting-edge research, curation and distribution of the center’s meteorite collection, dissemination of the latest scientific results and education at local, national and global scales.
“This year marks the 60th anniversary of the center,” said Wadhwa, “and there have been many significant research contributions that have been made by the center’s researchers and with meteorites from its collection over this time.”
Tijana Rajh, director of the School of Molecular Sciences, added, “Studies encompassing the role of water and organic content in meteorites performed at the Center for Meteorite Studies transformed how we think about the early days of the solar system and provided new molecular approaches to studying the returned samples from spacecraft missions.”
The center was founded in 1961 soon after ASU acquired a significant portion of the meteorite collection of Harvey H. Nininger, a famous meteorite hunter and self-taught meteoriticist. Professor Carleton Moore served as the founding director from 1961 until his retirement in 2003. Laurie Leshin, an ASU alumna who was a professor in the then Department of Geological Sciences, served as the center's director from 2003 till 2005 (she is currently president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute). Michelle Minitti served as interim director for a brief period (2005–06) before Wadhwa was named center director and professor in the newly established School of Earth and Space Exploration in 2006. Wadhwa served in this role in the center until 2019, when she was appointed director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Since then, Schrader has served as interim director.
At the present time, the center’s mission is advanced by a talented and experienced team:
Interim Director and Associate Research Professor Devin Schrader utilizes state-of-the-art multi-technique approaches to analyze samples from the earlies stages of our solar system’s history. His research primarily focuses on carbonaceous chondrites, ordinary chondrites and Hayabusa-returned particles from asteroid Itokawa, with the aim of furthering our understanding of the formation and alteration processes of small bodies in the early solar system. He is also a science team member for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return mission.
Collection Curator and Research Professor Laurence Garvie deciphers early solar system processes through the use of innovative, high-spatial-resolution electron microscopic and spectroscopic studies of meteorites. His studies primarily focus on carbonaceous chondrites, which provide a unique record of the physical and chemical processes that shaped our solar system. He was first a postdoctoral and then senior researcher in Buseck’s group from 1994 to 2007.
Assistant Research Professor Amy Jurewicz focuses her research on the recovery and analysis of the NASA GENESIS solar-wind collector materials. Before GENESIS, Jurewicz's research included work on a number of NASA missions, as well as the fabrication of meteorite analogs for the purpose of determining how one meteorite could be formed from another through natural, early solar system processes.
Assistant Research Scientist Jemma Davidson is an isotope geochemist and petrologist who specializes in the study of primitive astromaterials. She applies her expertise in petrology and isotope chemistry to samples from small bodies, such as carbonaceous chondrites, to understand early solar system processes and larger bodies, such as Mars and the moon, to understand the evolution of water in our solar system. She also studies ordinary chondrites, interplanetary dust particles and particles from asteroid Itokawa.
Research Professional Rebekah Hines serves a multidisciplinary role in the center, including the development and implementation of museum exhibits and loanable education modules, construction of relational collection databases, designing state-of-the-art natural history collection housing, content development for education and outreach programming, and website administration. In addition, she oversees clean-room operations and trains students in the School of Earth and Space Exploration's Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Laboratory that is directed by Wadhwa.
Program Coordinator Rebecca Davis, a decades-long Sun Devil, supports the center with funding, sponsored projects and human resource management. She is also an active and enthusiastic participant in the center's education and outreach activities.
The next opportunity to meet the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies team (and bring in your meteorite for analysis) is at the ASU Tempe campus Open Door event on Feb. 26, 2022. The Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies team will have a booth on the second floor of ISTB4 and will be on hand to assist with meteorite identification and to answer questions from science enthusiasts of all ages.
Written by James Klemaszewski, science writer for the School of Molecular Sciences, and Karin Valentine, media relations and marketing manager at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. This article originally appeared on ASU Now.
Buzzard Coulee is an ordinary (H4) chondrite that fell November 20th, 2008, in rural Saskatchewan, Canada.
The associated fireball was quite visible, and was witnessed by several; according to the Meteoritical Bulletin (MB 95):
"A bright fireball was widely observed across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba during late twilight on November 20, 2008. The fireball and subsequent dust trail, or shadows cast by the fireball, were recorded by all-sky and security video cameras establishing that its brightest portion occurred from 17:26:40 to 17:26:45 MST. The fireball traveled approximately north to south with an elevation angle of ~60°. Abundant sonic phenomena were reported including anomalous sounds, explosion booms, sonic booms from individual fragments and whirring sounds interpreted as produced by individual fragments falling to ground; the fireball’s explosions were also widely recorded by Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty infrasound stations establishing an energy release of approximately one third of a kiloton, indicating an original meteoroid mass of ~10 tons. Interviews of eyewitnesses and crude calibrations of security cameras constrained the fall region and the first search attempt led to meteorites being recovered off the ice of a manmade pond late on November 27, 2008. Subsequent searches led to recovery of more than one hundred individual fragments before December 6 when increasing snow cover made further searching unproductive. A strewn field at least seven kilometers long and approximately three km wide with a wind drift tail of an additional three km eastwards has been crudely outlined."
Over 40 kilograms of the Buzzard Coulee meteorite have been recovered to date.
Photo credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Geoff Howe
Looking back at history-making chemistry that's out of this world
October 6, 2021
It was 60 years ago, in 1961, and the space race was on. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, followed weeks later by American astronaut Alan Shepard. President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
Arizona State University’s opportunity to become part of the nation’s space program began when it purchased the largest personal meteorite collection at the time from Harvey Nininger. Nininger’s meteorite collection, consisting of samples from nearly 600 localities, was housed and studied at ASU’s newly formed Center for Meteorite Studies, one of the university’s first research institutes.
To direct the center, ASU courted a recent PhD graduate from the California Institute of Technology, Carleton Moore. Moore, at the time, was teaching at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. On behalf of ASU, Herbert G. Fales flew to Connecticut to recruit Moore.
Moore recalled, “I was interested in the position, but I wanted to come to Arizona to see the university before accepting. At the time, it was unheard of for prospective faculty to want to come and visit the school, so I don’t think they really knew what to do with me. They gave me a nice tour, and then George Bateman, chair of the division of physical sciences, took me to dinner at the local bowling alley.”
The Center for Meteorite Studies was originally located in the Department of Chemistry (today the School of Molecular Sciences). One of Moore’s first tasks as director was to organize a symposium on meteorite research to celebrate the inauguration of ASU’s new president, G. Homer Durham.
“Durham was a wonderful guy,” Moore said. “He saw that ASU had to grow, so he was very supportive of our research.”
Research at the Center for Meteorite Studies grew throughout the 1960s, as did Moore’s skill and reputation. Prior to the first moon landing in 1969, Moore was accepted by NASA to chemically analyze lunar samples brought back to Earth by the astronauts. A little over 50 years ago, on the evening of Oct. 7, 1969, history was made at ASU in the C-wing of the physical sciences building when Moore, together with colleague Charles Lewis and graduate student Robert Kelly, obtained the first measurements of carbon in a lunar sample.