Dr Ashley King

Dr Ashley King
  • Post-Doc Research Asst - Meteoritics Project B&C
  • Earth Sciences department
  • Mineral and Planetary Sciences Division
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London
SW7 5BD

Biography

2012 – present – Post-doctoral research assistant, Natural History Museum.

2011 - 2012 - Post-doctoral research associate, University of Manchester.

2010 - 2011 - Post-doctoral research scholar, University of Chicago.

2007 – 2010 - Ph.D. Isotope Cosmochemistry, University of Manchester.

2003 – 2007 - MEarthSci (Hons) Geology with Planetary Science (First), University of Manchester.

Public engagement

Talking to the public and promoting your research is one of the most enjoyable and important parts of being a scientist. I regularly provide tours and talks to interested visitors, school groups and local societies, and participate in the Museum’s Nature Live series. Over the years I have also been involved in several larger outreach events, including:

2013 – Science Uncovered, Natural History Museum

             Live From music festival, Jodrell Bank

             Lates with Mastercard, Natural History Museum

2012 – Organiser of Meteorite Day at the Manchester Museum, as part of the Manchester Science Festival.

2010 – MoonWatch, Jodrell Bank

In addition, I have contributed to the Earth and Solar System Research blog and was recently interviewed for the science podcast Pythagoras’ Trousers.

Research

Interests

My research focuses on the laboratory analysis of meteorites and extra-terrestrial materials returned to Earth by space missions. I like using novel techniques to study these precious samples in order to understand how the solar system evolved from a cloud of gas and dust to the Sun, planets and asteroids that we see today.

Projects

Water in asteroids

Water on Earth is a key ingredient for life but it is still unclear how it got here. One theory is that water was delivered to Earth by comets and asteroids. To test this I research a group of meteorites, the carbonaceous chondrites, which contain minerals such as clays that were formed by aqueous alteration on asteroids. At the Museum we use X-ray diffraction to determine the type and abundance of minerals in carbonaceous chondrites. We also make use of large research facilities such as the Diamond synchrotron to reveal details about the chemical environment in which these minerals formed. Knowing where and when water was available in the early solar system allows us to understand how it may have come to Earth and its role as a starting point for life.

Presolar Grains

Presolar grains come from stars that existed before our solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago. Extracted from meteorites, these incredibly small (less than the width of a human hair!) dust grains can be used to study how important elements such as C, N and O are created in giant stars. Using specialist analytical techniques I analyse the isotopic and elemental composition of presolar grains to determine the physical and chemical conditions in different types of stars, and try to understand how stars are involved in the formation and evolution of galaxies and solar systems.

Enstatite Chondrites

Enstatite chondrites make up only a few percent of all meteorites that fall on Earth. Unlike most meteorites they contain an unusual mixture of silicates, sulphides and metal that suggests they formed under highly reducing conditions close to the Sun. The enstatite chondrites were also altered by heating and impact events on their asteroid parent bodies and therefore provide a record of processes that were taking place in the region where the Earth formed. I try to piece together the early history of the inner solar system by studying noble gases and radioactive isotopes in enstatite chondrites.

Read more about extraterrestrial materials projects at the Museum on their dedicated research pages.

Publications

2014
  • Bechtel H.A. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination III: Infrared spectroscopic analysis of interstellar dust candidates. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
  • Brenker F.E. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination V: XRF analyses of interstellar dust candidates at ESRF ID13. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
  • Butterworth A.L. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination IV: Scanning transmission X-ray microscopy analyses of impact features in the Stardust interstellar dust collector. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
  • Flynn G. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination VII: Synchrotron X-ray fluorescence analysis of six Stardust interstellar candidates using the Advanced Photon Source 2-ID-D microprobe. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
  • Frank D.R. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination II: Curating the interstellar dust collector, picokeystones, and sources of impact tracks. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
  • Gainsforth Z. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination VIII: Identification of crystalline material in two interstellar candidates. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
  • Postberg F. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination IX: High speed interstellar dust analogue capture in Starduct flight-spare aerogel. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
  • Simionovici A.S. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination VI: Quantitative elemental analysis by synchrotron X-ray fluorescence nanoimaging of eight impact features in aerogel. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
  • Sterken V.J. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination X: Impact speeds and directions of interstellar grains on the Stardust dust collector. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
  • Stroud R.M. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination XI: Identification and elemental analysis of impact craters on Al foils on the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
  • Westphal A.J. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Stardust interstellar preliminary examination I: Identification of tracks in aerogel. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, In press : .
  • Westphal A.J. et al. (>60 authors) ( 2014 ) Final reports of the Stardust Interstellar Preliminary Examination. Meteoritics and Planetary Science In press : .
2011
  • King A., Henkel T., Rost D. and Lyon I. ( 2011 ) Trace element depth-profiles in presolar SiC grains. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 47 : 1624-1643 .
2010
  • King A., Henkel T., Rost D. and Lyon I. ( 2010 ) Determination of relative sensitivity factors during secondary ion sputtering of silicate glasses by Au+, Au2+ and Au3+ ions. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 24 : 15-20 .