CMS News

New paper by Center researchers

A new paper, published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, by Center Assistant Director Dr. Devin Schrader and Center Assistant Research Scientist Dr. Jemma Davidson constrains the background temperature of the protoplanetary disk in the first four million years of the Solar System!  Authored with Dr. Steve Desch (ASU) and Dr. Roger Fu (Harvard University), the paper, titled "The background temperature of the protoplanetary disk within the first four million years of the Solar System", also provides a new test parameter for chondrule formation models based on newly determined low-temperature chondrule cooling rates.

Read the paper here – free to download until November 19th!

Chondrules are rounded, silicate-rich particles, and are the namesake of the chondrite meteorites.  Chondrites are the most abundant type of stony meteorite, and contain some of the first solids to have formed in the Solar System, including calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions, and chondrules.

2019 Nininger Student Travel Award Application Open

The Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University is pleased to announce the application opportunity for the 2019 Nininger Student Travel Award for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing research in meteoritics and planetary sciences.

The Nininger Student Travel Award supports travel to the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) of up to 4 School of Earth & Space Exploration undergraduate and graduate students to present their latest results.

For details on the award and application process, click here!

2018 Nininger Meteorite Award Application Open

The Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University is pleased to announce the application opportunity for the 2018 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.  Papers must cover original research conducted by the student and must have been written, submitted, or published between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2018. 
 
The 2017 Nininger Meteorite Award application deadline is January 19, 2019. Applicants must be the first, but not sole, author of the paper and must have been studying at an educational institution in the United States at the time the paper was written, submitted, or published.
 
The Nininger Award recipient receives $1,000 and an engraved plaque commemorating the honor.
 

Center marks historic anniversary

This week marks a historic anniversary in the Center for Meteorite Studies!

On the evening of Tuesday, October 7th, 1969, Center Founding Director Carleton Moore, Center Curator Chuck Lewis, Center graduate student Bob Kelly, and LECO salesperson Mitch Schwartz crowded into the Center's laboratory to conduct the very first carbon analysis of a lunar sample. Director Moore was extremely relieved when the first sample of lunar regolith began to register a reading – there was carbon in the lunar samples and they were analyzing it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Center curator Chuck Lewis in the laboratory.

The Center's experience and success in analyzing carbon in meteorites had led to Director Moore's inclusion on the Lunar Sample Preliminary Examination Team (LSPET), the group of scientists assigned to analyze the samples returned by the Apollo astronauts.

While the first samples returned by the Apollo 11 mission were almost entirely analyzed in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now known as Johnson Spaceflight Center), because the ASU Center for Meteorite Studies was the only facility with the analytical machinery in place for proven carbon analyses, Director Moore flew to Houston to pick up the Apollo 11 samples and hand carried them back to ASU for analysis, along with graduate student Everett Gibson.

Moon in transit 1969

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CMS Director Carleton Moore and graduate student Everett Gibson transporting Apollo lunar samples to ASU. Photo: Jan Young.

Director Moore and his team carried out the carbon analyses for LSPET on the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 samples at ASU, ultimately analyzing over 200 lunar samples.

Read more about the Center's historic lunar analyses here!

2018 Nininger Meteorite Award Application Open

The Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University is pleased to announce the application opportunity for the 2018 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.  Papers must cover original research conducted by the student and must have been written, submitted, or published between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2018. 
 
The 2017 Nininger Meteorite Award application deadline is January 19, 2019. Applicants must be the first, but not sole, author of the paper and must have been studying at an educational institution in the United States at the time the paper was written, submitted, or published.
 
The Nininger Award recipient receives $1,000 and an engraved plaque commemorating the honor.
 

2019 Nininger Student Travel Award Application Open

The Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University is pleased to announce the application opportunity for the 2019 Nininger Student Travel Award for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing research in meteoritics and planetary sciences.

The Nininger Student Travel Award supports travel to the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) of up to 4 School of Earth & Space Exploration undergraduate and graduate students to present their latest results.

For details on the award and application process, click here!

What happens to a Martian meteorite left in the Arizona desert?

In 2013, two small fragments of the Tissint Martian meteorite were "planted" in Arizona's Sonoran Desert in order to deliberately expose them to terrestrial desert weathering. The first piece was recovered for analysis after 12 months of exposure, and the remaining fragment  in 2016 (read about Tissint's recovery from the Arizona desert here). During their time in the Sonoran Desert, the meteorite fragments were exposed to hot summer temperatures (as high as 48C or 118F) and occasional bouts of monsoon rain.

Tissint recovered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final fragment of the Tissint Martian meteorite (M&M for scale) was recovered after 36 months in the desert. Photos: ASU/CMS.

Upon their return to ASU's Center for Meteorite Studies, the meteorite pieces' volatile (such as water) and isotopic compositions were the subjects of in-depth analyses. The results of this work, led by Center alumna Dr. Alice Stephant were recently published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

The article, "Terrestrial exposure of a fresh Martian meteorite causes rapid changes in hydrogen isotopes and water concentrations", shows that volatiles in extraterrestrial materials like the Tissint meteorite exchange rapidly with Earth’s atmosphere and water.  The study stresses that, although meteorites provide great preliminary opportunities to study other rocky bodies, sample return missions have the potential to compliment meteorite studies and give additional insight into the compositions of planetary bodies in our Solar System.

Sonoran Desert

First recorded meteorite fall in the Valley

July 27th marks the first observed meteorite fall in Arizona's Valley of the Sun! 

While multiple Valley residents reported fireball sightings to the American Meteor Society that evening, Center for Meteorite Studies Curator Professor Laurence Garvie speculates that many additional witnesses likely mistook the meteorite's entry into Earth's atmosphere for monsoon lightning.

So far, only one piece of the new ordinary chondrite has been recovered (read about finding the meteorite here!), and this new Arizona meteorite fall will be classified by Prof. Garvie, here at ASU's Center for Meteorite Studies.

Are you within two miles of Deer Valley Road and 75th Avenue in Glendale?  Check your yard for black rocks that weren't there before, and send photos to lgarvie@asu.edu – you may have a meteorite!

This is the fifth observed meteorite fall in the state of Arizona.  To date, 163 Arizona meteorites have been classified.

Stay tuned for updates!

Click here to read more about the meteorite's recovery in ASU Now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The newest Arizona meteorite fall. Photo: L. Garvie/CMS/ASU. Read about its recovery here!

Oldest-ever igneous meteorite contains clues to planet building blocks

Scientists believe the solar system was formed some 4.6 billion years ago when a cloud of gas and dust collapsed under gravity, possibly triggered by a cataclysmic explosion from a nearby massive star or supernova. As this cloud collapsed, it formed a spinning disk with the sun in the center.

Piece by piece, scientists have been working on establishing the formation of the solar system with clues from space. Now, new research has enabled scientists Meenakshi Wadhwa and Daniel Dunlap at Arizona State University’s Center for Meteorite Studies in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, as well as researchers from the University of New Mexico and NASA’s Johnson Space Center to add another piece to that puzzle, with the discovery of the oldest-ever dated igneous meteorite.

The meteorite Northwest Africa (NWA) 11119 was found in a sand dune in Mauritania. The rock is lighter in color than most meteorites and is laced with green crystals. Photo courtesy: ASU Center for Meteorite Studies
“The meteorite we studied is unlike any other known meteorite,” co-author Dunlap said. “It has the highest abundance of silica and the most ancient age (4.565 billion years old) of any known igneous meteorite. Meteorites like this were the precursors to planet formation and represent a critical step in the evolution of rocky bodies in our solar system.”

The research on this meteorite, published today in Nature Communications, provides direct evidence that chemically evolved, silica-rich crustal rocks were forming on planetesimals within the first 10 million years prior to the assembly of the terrestrial planets and helps scientists further understand the complexities of planet formation.

A meteorite laced with green crystals

The research began at the University of New Mexico (UNM) with a yet-to-be studied meteorite, called “Northwest Africa (NWA) 11119,” that was found in a sand dune in Mauritania. The rock is lighter in color than most meteorites and is laced with green crystals, cavities and quench melt, a type of rock texture that suggests rapid cooling and is often found in volcanic rocks which cool rapidly or “quench” when brought to the surface quickly.

Using an electron microprobe and a computed tomography (CT) scan at UNM and NASA’s Johnson Space Center facilities, lead author Poorna Srinivasan started to examine the composition and mineralogy of the rock. Srinivasan noted the intricacies of NWA 11119 including its unusual light-green fusion crust.

“The mineralogy of this rock is a very, very different from anything that we've worked on before,” Srinivasan said. “I examined the mineralogy to understand all of the phases that comprise the meteorite. One of the main things we saw first were the large silica crystals of tridymite which is similar to the mineral quartz. When we conducted further image analyses to quantify the tridymite, we found that the amount present was a staggering 30 percent of the total meteorite — this amount is unheard of in meteorites and is only found at these levels in certain volcanic rocks from the Earth.”

Video courtesy of the University of New Mexico.

Determining the age and origin of the meteorite

At ASU’s Center for Meteorite Studies, scientists and co-authors Dunlap and Wadhwa used inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry in their Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Laboratory, which helped determine the precise formation age of the meteorite. The research confirmed that NWA 11119 is the oldest-ever igneous meteorite recorded at 4.565 billion years old.

“The purpose of this research was to understand the origin and formation time of an unusually silica-rich igneous meteorite,” said Wadhwa, who is the director of ASU’s Center for Meteorite Studies. “Most other known igneous asteroidal meteorites have ‘basaltic’ compositions that have much lower abundances of silica — so we wanted to understand how and when this unique silica-rich meteorite formed in the crust of an asteroidal body in the early solar system.”

Daniel Dunlap, a graduate student at the School of Earth and Space Exploration and co-author of this study, performed the isotope analyses for dating NWA 11119 in the Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochronology Laboratory at ASU. Photo by Laurence Garvie/ASU

In addition, the research involved trying to figure out through chemical and isotopic analyses what body the meteorite could be from. Utilizing oxygen isotopes done in collaboration with co-author Karen Ziegler of UNM’s Center for Stable Isotope lab, the team was able to determine that it was definitely extraterrestrial.

“Based on oxygen isotopes, we know it's from an extraterrestrial source somewhere in the solar system, but we can't actually pinpoint it to a known body that has been viewed with a telescope,” Srinivasan said. “However, through the measured isotopic values, we were able to possibly link it to two other unusual meteorites (Northwest Africa 7235 and Almahata Sitta) suggesting that they all are from the same parent body — perhaps a large, geologically complex body that formed in the early solar system.”

One possibility is that this parent body was disrupted through a collision with another asteroid or planetesimal and some of its ejected fragments eventually reached the Earth’s orbit, falling through the atmosphere and ending up as meteorites on the ground — in the case of NWA 11119, falling in Mauritania at a yet unknown time in the past.

“The oxygen isotopes of NWA11119, NWA 7235, and Almahata Sitta are all identical, but this rock — NWA 11119 — stands out as something completely different from any of the over 40,000 meteorites that have been found on Earth,” Srinivasan said.

Asteroids are the remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago. Photo: Artist rendition, University of New Mexico

Building blocks of planet formation

Most meteorites are formed through the collision of asteroids orbiting the sun in a region called the asteroid belt. Asteroids are the remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago. 

The chemical composition ranges of ancient igneous meteorites, or achondrites, are key to understanding the diversity and geochemical evolution of planetary building blocks. Achondrite meteorites record the first episodes of volcanism and crust formation, the majority of which are basaltic in composition.

“This research is key to how the building blocks of planets formed early in the solar system,” said co-author Carl Agee, director of UNM’s Institute of Meteoritics. “When we look out of the solar system today, we see fully formed bodies, planets, asteroids, comets and so forth. Then, our curiosity always pushes us to ask the question, how did they form, how did the Earth form? This is basically a missing part of the puzzle that we've now found that tells us these igneous processes act like little blast furnaces that are melting rock and processing all of the solar system solids. Ultimately, this is how planets are forged.”

The next steps for the ASU team are to detail the chronology of this meteorite (and related meteorites) with new isotopic measurements. These new data will help even more precisely determine the age of this unique meteorite and the implications for the evolution of rocky bodies in the early solar system.

Karin Valentine
Media Relations & Marketing Manager
ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration