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We’re delighted to announce the start of a new meteorites project called Shooting Stars @ the Natural History Museum that aims to observe meteors over the UK.

 

Meteors (also known as shooting stars) are dust and rocks from space that generate a bright trail in the sky as they pass through the atmosphere. When a piece of rock enters Earth’s atmosphere it is moving very quickly (11 – 70km per second). As it falls to Earth the friction from the air causes it to glow and disintegrate. A very bright meteor is called a fireball. If the fireball is large enough (usually >1m), some of the rock may survive the fall and land on the Earth’s surface, which is when it becomes known as a meteorite.

 

Meteorites record 4.5 billion years of solar system history, but we rarely know where exactly in the solar system they came from. We think most are from asteroids, and some may even be from comets. One way to confirm this is to know a meteorite’s original orbit, which can be estimated if its fireball is witnessed from multiple locations. However, out of a collection of ~50,000 meteorites worldwide, fewer than 10 have been observed falling to Earth in enough detail to accurately calculate their orbit.

 

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My desk is getting crowded but we now have everything we need to start watching the skies!

 

To increase the chances of seeing a meteorite while it is falling to Earth, a number of digital camera networks, dedicated to detecting meteors and fireballs, have been set up around the world. Some use highly sophisticated cameras and software, whilst others are more low-tech affairs.

 

Our Shooting Stars project will contribute to these networks by using two CCTV cameras to search for meteor fireballs above the UK. One camera will be placed on the roof of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, and the second will be located at our Tring site to avoid the effects of light pollution in central London.

 

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Our new toy! This is one of the CCTV cameras that we will use to search for meteors and fireballs above the UK.

 

Over the last few months we have received almost daily deliveries of cameras, lenses, cables and computers. We’re hoping to have the first camera built and ready for testing in the next couple of weeks, so check back here and keep an eye on our twitter account for the latest updates.

 

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A fish-eye lens will be attached to the camera to give us a wide-angle view of the night sky.

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Dr Sarah Crowther, University of Manchester

 

Tuesday 18th November 1600h

 

Earth Sciences Seminar Room  (Basement, WEB 05)

 

 

The I-Xe chronometer provides a high resolution means of studying events that occurred during the formation of the Solar System and the subsequent reprocessing of material within the first ~150 Ma of Solar System history. Barwell seems to have sampled igneous clasts that formed early in the Solar System's history, and preserved the I-Xe system from this time. These clasts are igneous in nature, rather than chondritic. If they are relics from a previous generation of melted, differentiated planetesimals, it would support data that suggest there was an earlier generation of planetesimals that pre-date the formation of the chondrite parent bodies. Barwell also allows us the opportunity to investigate whether chondrules from this early period of Solar System history are also present.

 

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In this talk Sarah Crowther will discuss the background to this study, the I-Xe chronometer, the techniques and mass spectrometer used at The University of Manchester to determine I-Xe ages, and  recent analyses of Barwell.

 

More information on attending seminars at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/news-events/seminars/

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Next week is the Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society. This year it is being held in Morocco by scientists from Hassan II University of Casablanca. All of us in the Museum’s meteorite research team are heading out to Casablanca on Sunday for a week of presentations, discussions, networking and a great chance to explore some of Morocco.

 

epi.jpgThe Moroccan Atlas Mountains. A great place to go meteorite hunting! (Image credit: E. Vaccaro)

 

Many meteorites have been found in Morocco, including the Martian meteorite Tissint, so this is a very appropriate place for hundreds of meteorite-lovers to convene (the organisers have even named the conference meeting rooms after meteorites!).

 

Morocco has an abundance of meteorites because it is largely desert, and deserts are excellent places to look for odd, dark coloured rocks from space. Most of the meteorites found in this region are given the designation NWA (for North West Africa) as it is not always known exactly where they fell before they were passed on to collectors and institutions by meteorite dealers. 

 

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Museum scientist Dr Caroline Smith holds the Tissint meteorite. It is now the largest Martian meteorite in the Natural History Museum collections.

 

Museum research being presented at the meeting includes:

  • Professor Sara Russell on the new carbonaceous chondrite, Jbilet Winselwan.
  • Dr Caroline Smith on planning for Mars sample return missions.
  • Dr Penny Wozniakiewicz on collecting and identifying micrometeorites.
  • Dr Ashley King on fine-grained rims in CM chondrites.
  • Dr Jennifer Claydon on the Al-Mg system in chondrules.
  • Dr Natasha Stephen on mapping Martian meteorites.
  • PhD student Epifanio Vaccaro on characterising primitive meteorite matrix.
  • PhD student Natasha Almeida on using CT to study the interiors of meteorites.

 

We hope to keep you updated on the Meteoritical Society Meeting via our blog and our Twitter account @NHM_Meteorites.

 

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And here's what one of our PhD students, Epi, got up to on his last time in Morocco! (Image credit: E Vaccaro)

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As well as keeping you informed about our research we're going to use this blog to let you know more about our meteorite collection, especially the ones that aren't currently out on display.

 

All of us in the meteorite group are off to Casablanca, Morocco in September to present our research at the Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society (... more on that nearer the time). At the meeting there is going to be a special session about a very important meteorite called Orgueil.

 

It is 150 years since Orgueil was seen to fall in southern France (n.b. all meteorites are named after the place where they fell or were found so this one was seen to land near its namesake). We have several pieces of Orgueil, kept in the meteorite curation facility at the Museum.

 

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Me in the meteorite curation area. Most of our meteorites are kept in drawers like this.

 

Orgueil is important because it is part of a rare group of meteorites called CI chondrites. There are only five known CI chondrite 'falls' and Orgueil is by far the biggest, weighing 14 kg. We only have a total of about 7 kg of the other four CI chondrites so they are all very precious.

 

[A quick diversion into terminology - when meteorites are seen to fall and land we call them 'falls'. If a meteorite is found but no one saw it fall then it is called a 'find'. Falls are more valuable to scientists because they can be recovered more quickly and so are less likely to experience contamination or chemical alteration during their time on Earth.]

 

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A piece of Orgueil from our collection. All our meteorites have a unique number so that they can be identified.

 

When scientists analysed the chemistry of the CI chondrites they found that they are almost identical to the composition of the Sun. We think the chemistry of the Sun has stayed pretty much the same since it formed over 4.5 billion years ago and that the Sun contains over 99% of the mass in the Solar System.

 

This means that the Sun is very representative of the material that was present in the early Solar System; however it is very difficult to sample for what are probably obvious reasons. The compositions of other planets and many asteroids have been changed over time by chemical and physical processes so they are no longer representative of the early Solar System. As the CI chondrites are chemically very similar to the Sun we can study them to learn more about what the material in the Solar System was like when it formed 4.5 billion years ago.

 

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Different analytical techniques require different sample preparation. Here we have Orgueil "three ways": a disk (left) for infra-red analyses, powder (back-right) for x-ray diffraction analyses and chips (front-right) that can be polished for scanning electron microscopy.

 

Another of the CI chondrites, Alais, also fell in France about 50 years before Orgueil. Alais was found in 1806, just three years after one of the first scientific reports of a meteorite fall.

 

The report was written by Biot, a member of the French Academy of Science, and convinced the scientific community that meteorites were extra-terrestrial (apparently it was a much more exciting read than an earlier report by the German physicist, Ernst Chladni). Before this time meteorites were thought to be terrestrial rocks that had been struck by lightning, or rocks ejected from volcanoes. If Biot's work had not been published it is likely Alais would have been thrown away because it was initially thought to be fossilised peat.

 

The other three CI chondrite falls fell in the 20th century and are called Tonk, Ivuna and Revelstoke. The biggest piece of Ivuna is kept in our collection. It has been stored in a nitrogen atmosphere for the past twenty to thirty years. This protects it from the Earth's environment.

 

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We have the largest piece of Ivuna in a public collection anywhere. It is kept in a nitrogen environment to protect it from the Earth's atmosphere.

 

CI chondrites like Orgueil and Ivuna are also important as they contain organic material. This consists of molecules of carbon and hydrogen with some oxygen, nitrogen and sulphur. All this carbon makes the CI chondrites very black in colour - and perhaps easily mistaken for fossilised peat. They also contain a lot of water (up to 20%). One of our post-doctoral researchers, Ashley, is studying the mineralogy of Orgueil and other meteorites like it to find out more about water in the Solar System.

 

That the CI chondrites contain organic material and water is interesting because you need both these things in order for life to survive, and some people think that the building blocks for life on Earth could have been delivered by meteorites or comets. But - and it's a big but - you do not need life in order to have organic material and water, so they in themselves are not evidence of life coming from outer space.

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Hi all! Natasha here again, raring to tell you all about a most excellent trip that I’ve recently returned from. It was my first experience of the US and boy was it a good ‘un. Killing two birds with one Texan stone, I first went on a short course on geological applications for computed tomography (CT) in Austin, and then on to Houston for a visit to the NASA Johnson Space Center.

 

Micro-CT is a remarkable (and pretty novel) technique that uses X-rays to image specimens in three-dimensions, giving us a non-destructive way to see what’s inside. I use it to look at extraterrestrial material, but the scanner at the Museum gets used for all sorts! Sometime I'll do a more detailed post that goes into the physics of it all, but for now, back to the Lone Star State.

 

So my experience can be summed up in three words – humid, delicious and rocky! Everything is bigger in Texas. The cars (read pick-up trucks), the cakes, the personalities! Arriving into 40°C heat in Austin, my glasses immediately steamed up. After a short shuttle bus to the hotel, I was excited to meet my roommate for the duration of the course, a lovely PhD student studying drill cores with CT at the University of Florida.

 

Course on CT scanning

 

The short course was run by the High Resolution X-Ray CT Facility at the Jackson School of Geosciences (UTCT) in the University of Texas at Austin. This fantastic lab has been doing pioneering work in the geological applications of CT for almost 20 years. As well as getting a very helpful tutorial on their in-house software and talks on successful projects they have done, we also had the opportunity for a tour around the labs. UTCT has two CT scanners, which are optimised for different sizes and types of sample, including one instrument with detectors on microscope objectives. This means they can sort of ‘zoom in’ to features inside the specimen and get very high resolution images! Luckily they also have air conditioning in the lab otherwise I’m sure I’d have passed out from the heat!

 

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Ryan in the computer lab, learning how to use Blob3D.

 

That evening, all the course delegates were invited to a marvellous barbeque at the course director’s house, with home-smoked brisket, and my first Texan ribs! As well as enjoying dinner, I was dinner for certain unwelcome party guests… I left that night with about forty mosquito bites! 

 

Tuesday and Wednesday were likewise spent in workshops and tutorials on both CT hardware and software. One of the most important and useful aspects of attending the course was the chance to spend time with other rock-minded people, to share ideas on how to tackle problems or artefacts in the data, and to make contacts for future collaboration or discussion. We also managed to sneak in a couple of World Cup games along with a quick craft beer tasting walk through the city!

 

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Congress Bridge in Austin and the crowds awaiting the awakening of the million or so bats that live underneath.

 

Oh, and to continue the gastronomic theme, I tried a chimichanga, Detroit-style pizza, possibly the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had, and breakfast burritos. Mostly yum!   

 

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This is a chimichanga, a deep fried burrito, soaked in cheese. Can’t say this one went down well!

 

As if often the case when you’re having fun, the days passed quickly, and it was soon time to leave Austin. I headed on to Houston for the next stage of the trip.

 

A trip to NASA

 

The Johnson Space Center is NASA’s base for human spaceflight training and flight control, and houses their Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science department. This means that all the astronauts are based there, and all the Apollo samples, Antarctic meteorites and samples collected during the Stardust and Genesis missions are kept there! It is possibly the most awesome facility that I could ever imagine.

 

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The Space Shuttle Endeavour flying over the Johnson Space Center on a Boeing 747 carrier aircraft. Copyright NASA.

 

The key reason I went to NASA was to visit Ryan Zeigler, the Apollo Sample Curator. Ryan is responsible for looking after all the rocks, soils and cores brought back by the Apollo astronauts on the six missions that landed on the Moon. Back in February, he brought four of these samples, from Apollo 14, 15 and 16, to the Museum, and we CT scanned them here together in the Imaging and Analysis Centre.

 

We haven’t written up the results yet, but all four scans were very interesting, showing different textures and inclusions. One of the most exciting finds was that of a very large clast of basalt in an Apollo 16 breccia (a rock made up of fragments of other rocks or minerals). Below is a visualisation I made of the CT data, which shows the outline of the sample and where the clast is located inside (the green mass). This kind of image is invaluable for curators who would like to know exactly where to slice into the rock to expose features of interest for science. The sample is about ten centimetres across.

 

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A visualisation of the location of a basalt clast within an Apollo 16 breccia, made using the Drishti program.

 

Blimey, that’s a long post already and I’ve barely got on to the coolest stuff that I saw and the rocks that I got to hold! I’ll leave it there for now but check back soon, as I’ll be doing another post all about the Lunar and Meteorite Laboratories! Here’s a taster:

 

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A lunar basalt, collected by Apollo 11. The only rock to have been brought from the Moon then taken back into space for a trip on the International Space Station.

 

Lastly, if you’re ever in Texas, check out the ribs at Rudy’s!

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If you’ve read Jenny’s post you’ll be familiar with our research group. This week I’m going to tell you a bit about my job - I’m Ashley, a research scientist at the Museum investigating water in meteorites.

 

We all know that water is vital to sustaining life on Earth, but where did it come from? One suggestion is that it arrived here from asteroids and comets early in the Earth’s history. Meteorites can contain nearly 20% water and we study these to try and better understand the history of water in the solar system.

 

Recently, a group of us visited the Diamond Light Source (DLS) to carry out experiments on some meteorites. Diamond is the UK’s synchrotron facility and is used by many different scientists to study anything from dinosaur bones to new medicines. It works by accelerating electrons close to the speed of light to produce bright beams of electromagnetic radiation. These beams can be up to 10 million times brighter than the Sun.

 

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Here I am using the data collected to make a map of water-bearing minerals in the Murchison meteorite.

 

During our visit we used a beam of infrared light. Infrared light can be used for many things (like controlling your TV using a remote control); we used it to map the location of water in meteorites. We focused the beam to a very small spot so that we could study the meteorites on a very small scale.

 

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Nat keeps the infra-red detector cold by topping it up with liquid nitrogen. This had to be done every 7 hours.

 

Synchrotrons are now becoming a very popular choice for scientists carrying out experiments. They operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, they can be set up to carry out lots of different experiments and they generate huge amounts of data in a very short time. This means that synchrotrons are used to study some of the most important topics in science. Unfortunately it also means that the time for your experiment is limited and you often have to work for several days with very little sleep, which has been known to lead to the occasional nap on job!

 

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Searching for water in meteorites is hard work…

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... blasted open at long last!

 

When alighting at the top of our globe escalator in the Red Zone's Earth hall, from now on visitors will be greeted by an explosion of colour and dramatic installations as they enter the new Volcanoes and Earthquake gallery.

 

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Volcanoes and Earthquakes, our new permanent gallery, blasts open today, 31 January.

 

Alex Fairhead, interpretation manager for the new gallery, gives us an introduction:

 

''The earthquakes are back. Eleven months after our older The Power Within gallery was closed for refurbishment and, after two years in the planning, today sees the opening of Volcanoes and Earthquakes - a new, free permanent gallery in the Museum. In the exhibition we showcase about 120 specimens and objects. With these we explore the origins, geology, scientific understanding and human impact of our planet's most powerful natural forces.

 

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The new gallery has three themed zones: volcanoes, plate tectonics and earthquakes.

 

'For the gallery's design, we took inspiration from the structure of rock strata and continental plates and you can see that in the jutting, layered walls. The exhibition leads visitors through three themed areas: volcanoes, plate tectonics and earthquakes. The final encounter is inside the Museum’s renowned earthquake simulator, a re-creation of the supermarket scene during Japan's 1996 Kobe earthquake.

 

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A heat suit worn by volcanologists towers tall in the centre of the gallery. It can withstand temperatures of up to to 1,000˚C.

 

'There are a few surprises for visitors as they make their way through the gallery. The pink flamingo's feathers hide a volcanic secret, a 4,000 year old copper dagger holds the key to Cyprus’ underwater origins, and a giant catfish that was once thought to be the cause of earthquakes looms large.

 

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In Japanese mythology, the giant catfish was considered to be the cause of earthquakes.

 

'It's a gallery that was always popular with families and schools and we've really enhanced the content for this audience in the transformation. There are interactive quizzes and games, CGI films, touch objects includng a meteorite and lava bomb, and an in-depth explanation of the science behind these epic natural phenomena that have literally rocked our world.'

 

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A shaky final encounter in the gallery's Kobe supermarket earthquake simulator.

 

The Volcanoes and Earthquake gallery is a free permanent gallery. To visit, the nearest Museum entrance is our Exhibition Road entrance.

 

Come and be blown away.

 

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Today was the first day of the festival on the beach at Lyme Regis, Otherwise known as primary school day! Through the day, hundreds of school children from twenty local primary schools filltered through the tent, enjoying all of the fabulous activities and sights! A popular activity was the shark sieving, with children searching through sediment from Abbey Wood to find and identify shark teeth and shells - which they got to keep at the end!

 

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The equipment for shark sieving and the sediment

 

The British Geological Survey were showing off their 3D scanning equipment and printer. This was rather amazing! I was also very impressed with the British Antarctic Survey's specimens, particularly one ammonite  that had incredible sutures.

 

Museum staff had a very busy day with all of their activities, with Mike Rumsey and Helena Toman especially busy with their gold panning. Jerry Hooker and Noel Morris dealt with many fossil identifications.

 

I was sucessful in identifying the meteorite in a task designed by Caroline Smith and Deb Cassey - it is often difficult to identify a true meteorite! The DNA activity got many children very excited, with lots going past our fossil stand waving their tubes and enthusiastically telling us that they had DNA.

 

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A girl hunting for 'gold' at the gold panning station.

 

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'Barry' our Baryonyx skull watching over us as we work.

 

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Many of the Museum stations and associated staff inside the tent (but not all of us!)

 

Emma and I were also intervied for Palaeocast, a podcast about palaeontology. Emma talked to them about fish and I discussed ammonites.

 

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Emma and me being interviewed for Palaeocast

 

Tomorrow the tent will be open to the public so we are expecting a busy couple of days ahead. If you are nearby do pop in and say hello!

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The Museum learning engagement team's first day at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival ended yesterday and it was an epic day!

 

We were up at 6.30 to start at 8 yesterday at Thomas Hardye School, where five schools from the Dorset area participated in earth science related activities throughout the day. The team have been helping students investigate a dinosaur dig and identify what they uncover.


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Jade assists a willing group of fossil hunters

 

Other activities included creating meteor impact craters and extracting copper from malachite using electricity!

 

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Extracting copper from the mineral malachite

 

Scientists from the Museum brought lots of amazing specimens for the 450 students, including tektites, formed from sand rapidly heated by meteorite impacts and ejected to form these beautiful tear drops shapes.

 

photo 2.JPGA tektite (on the left) formed when sand is rapidly heated by a meteorite impact, with a pound coin for scale.

 

Other highlights included the biodiversity team's activity, where students identified bugs and other arthropods, contributing to important citizen science data. There was also a great stand featuring Thomas Hardye's very own Fossil Club, who were busy inspiring fellow students to get into fossils.

 

We finished packing up, headed to Lyme Regis to set up for the festival on the water front and today's primary school day, (and finished off with some well earned fish and chips!)

 

The festival runs from today until Sunday 5 May so if you're in the area come and join us and many other exhibitors for more earth science fun!

 

Posted on behalf of Emily, Ben and Jade from the Museum's learning team.

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Wild Stardust in Science News

Posted by John Jackson Dec 23, 2011

Samples returned from comet 81P/Wild 2 by the Stardust mission provided an unequalled opportunity to compare previously available extraterrestrial samples against those from a known comet. Iron sulphides are a major constituent of cometary grains commonly identified within cometary interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) and Wild 2 samples.  NHM scientists Sara Russell and Anton Kearsley, and Scientific Associate Phil Bland, are key collaborators on a new examination of this unique material.

 

Chemical analyses show that Wild 2 sulphides are fundamentally different from those in IDPs. However, as Wild 2 dust was collected via impact into capture media at approximately 6.1 km s-1, it is unclear whether this is due to original variations in these materials or is due to heating and alteration during collection. The results obtained are consistent with estimated peak pressures and temperatures experienced (approximately 85 GPa, approximately 2600 K) and some may be used to predict original chemistry and estimate mineralogy - the work continues....


Wozniakiewicz P J, Ishii H A, KEARSLEY A T, Burchell M J, BLAND P A, Bradley J P, Dai Z R,   Teslich N, Collins G S, Cole M J & RUSSELL S S 2011. Investigation of iron sulfide impact crater residues: A combined analysis by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 46: 1007-1024.

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Samples from the Moon come either from lunar landing missions - the US Apollo or Soviet Luna sample return missions - or from lunar meteorites.  The Moon's craters show a history of impacts by smaller space bodies that, when they have collided with the Moon, have flung Moon rock into space. 

Some of this material has eventually fallen to the surface of the Earth as lunar meteorites, although these have only been recognised as such since 1982 when some unusual meteorites were compared with rocks retrieved by lunar missions. Over 130 meteorites have now been recognised as of lunar origin.

Scientists from the Museum's meteorite research group, Professor Sara Russell and Anton Kearsley, have collaborated with partners from London University's UCL and Birkbeck College to study four lunar regolith breccia meteorites that provide sampling of the lunar surface from regions of the Moon that were not visited by the US and Soviet missions. They used equipment in the Museum's analytical laboratories to show that these meteorites represent impact melts formed from rocks of compositions distinct from those sampled by the Apollo missions - there is considerable variability in rock types across the surface of the moon.

JOY K H, Crawford I A, RUSSELL S S & KEARSLEY A T (2010) Lunar meteorite regolith breccias: An in situ study of impact melt composition using LA-ICP-MS with implications for the composition of the lunar crust. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 45: 917-946. DOI: 10.1111/j.1945-5100.2010.01067.

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Image  © NASA

Above: NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured images of ice deposits, which would be crucial for the terraforming of Mars.

 

 

Today’s Nature Live featured Dr. Matt Genge, a planetary scientist who works at Imperial College. The event was part of the Future for Nature  season, so Matt began by reminding us that the population of the Earth is 7 billion and rising. If this continues we will eventually need the resources of  another planet, but is this even possible?


 

If humans do end up having to move to another planet, the most likely candidate is Mars. It is within the ‘goldilocks’ zone, ie not too close and not too far away from  the sun, so that temperatures are ‘just right’. Actually Mars is still too chilly for me -  rising to only a few degrees above freezing at the equator, but it’s definitely preferable to Venus, where the temperature is about 400 degrees centigrade.


 

But before we start packing, moving to a new planet is no easy task, so where do we begin? A common theme in science fiction is terraforming – changing the atmospheres of planets to make them habitable for humans.


 

Matt outlined one plan, based in science fact, for terraforming Mars. It would involve diverting asteroids or comets so that they crash into the planet, thereby melting ice deposits under the surface. The water vapour produced by these impacts would thicken the atmosphere, which would mean that  more heat is retained, so that temperatures slowly rise. With a warmer, wetter  atmosphere, microorganisms such as algae could be seeded to convert CO2 to  oxygen, making the atmosphere breathable for humans. Sounds simple enough.


 

Alas, all this will take a while to get going so I'm not hoping to see it ready in my lifetime, but at least it's nice to know that there are people out there who are thinking about the long-term future of our species.


 

In order to benefit from the terraforming technology we just need to survive the next few hundred years in the face of drastic environmental changes and dwindling resources. If we can do that then it would seem that anything is possible. Energy-saving light bulb anyone?


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So last night we finished our special Attenborough Studio showcase events for the Royal Launch of the Darwin Centre - it was a real treat with no less that 6 scientists involved, live video links from the field as well as behind the scenes and some of the most amazing specimens we have ever seen in the studio. Topping it all off Sir David himself was in the audience.

 

Spider curator Jan kicked off with some tongue-in-cheek comparisons between spider and human courtship – just a few of the tricks used by the >40,000 different species of spiders to get all eight of their legs over. To honour the occasion we also saw spiders collected by Darwin himself.

 

We then went live to Adrian's deep sea observatory off the coast of Sweden and had a quite surreal conversation with Bjorn – who was diving next to a whale carcass at the time. We saw a new species of  bone eating snot flower worm (translation from the scientific name!) that Adrian has discovered that, as the name suggests lives on bones of dead whales and such like. You can watch the live stream from the whale bones  - I can't guarantee that Bjorn will be there - though you are quite likely to see the crabs and starfish.

 

From the deep sea we switched to deep time with Paul, just back from South Africa where he had been digging up early dinosaur fossils like this one we have on display. We saw another new species but we can't be sure until Scott, the Museum's fossil preparator, grinds, drills and picks all of the rock away. There were a few grimaces as his dentist's drill wirred away but it was cool to have a live demonstration in the studio and some of the kids even had a go.

 

Anyhow, the finale, if you like, was Al and Caroline from mineralogy. Al showed off some enourmous sparkly diamonds, the ultimate mineral from 200 km into the mantle - deep earth - and Caroline, who started in the basement collections area, showed us the meteorite Ivuna – the best example of the building blocks of the solar system and one of just 9 such meteorites (out of thousands) known to exist - from deep space. They wrapped up with a mineral face off – asking a visitor to hold a 460-carat dirty diamond - over 3 billion years old and formed deep within the earth – in one hand and a small piece of the planet Mars in the other. To Al's dismay Mars won - 7 times out of 8.

 

It sounds quite chaotic but was a huge team effort that all came together in less than 30 minutes and was all snippets taken from some of the great events happening in the studio over the next couple of weeks.Attenborough studio launch team photo.JPG