terça-feira, 29 de janeiro de 2013

UA Doctoral Student First to Identify Nature of Meteorite

A UA doctoral student was the first among a group of researchers to identify the nature of a meteorite that landed in California and Nevada.

Robert Beauford, a UA doctoral student in space and planetary sciences, was one of many scientists who formed the Sutter’s Mill Consortium to research the meteorite that fell near that location. The consortium was able to link many researchers together and provide a clear line of communication through which they could share their results.

“We will know a great deal more about this meteorite because of this cooperation than we would have known otherwise,” Beauford said. “The efficiency of this group, in speed of research and in the thoroughness with which results are being communicated, will allow others to build upon our team’s successes more effectively and more quickly when the next new samples arrive from space.”

Their research was published in the journal “Science”, and Beauford’s recognition of the meteorite was mentioned in the title.

“I really only played a small part, along with many other very qualified scientists,” Beauford said. “It is nice that people have found my work to be useful. Science is a team effort.”

To identify the meteorite Beauford took an extensive series of pictures and examined the meteorite with a hand lens. He observed that it was composed of fragments of rock, which were visibly different from each other. He also noticed an unusually complex matrix that preserved the structures of the parent rocks that formed the impacted material. He said his primary avenue of research regards impacted rock types, which helped him identify the meteorite.

“I was simply in the right place at the right time, and with the right skill set to see something interesting about it,” he said. “I did the work for the enjoyment of it, and only sent it over because I thought the observations might be useful. I honestly never expected to be included in the subsequent research or in the paper that followed. It was a real pleasure to be able to contribute further.”

Meteorites are rare in general, but carbonaceous chondrites, like Sutter’s Mill, are even more so because only about 1.5 percent of them have been identified in all falls and finds, Beauford said. Not only is this a rare and important class of meteorite, it is the single most pristine example of this meteorite type that has ever been recovered, he said.

“Meteorites are among the most unaltered materials that we currently possess from the early solar system,” he said. “These meteorites are literal time capsules from the time of the formation of our sun and planets.”

From this group of meteorites researchers have been able to recover pre-solar grains, which are older than the sun, and organic carbon molecules, Beauford said. They also contain some of the most resource-rich materials in the solar system, which will show researchers some of the places that they should be focusing on in short-term space exploration and long-term solar development.

They also inform many branches of science by offering insights into earth’s geochemical and environmental systems, Beauford said.

“Understanding this meteorite and its parent asteroid translates to an increase in our understanding of the solar system itself, including us, our own planet, our sun, and our place in space and time,” he said.

Beauford is involved in three other projects regarding the Sutter’s Mill meteorite in addition to answering some questions about known impact craters on the Ozark Plateau. He said he is also working on refuting or confirming the location of two other possible impact craters and is in the process of researching and writing for several books.

“I achieved what I hoped for: to contribute my time and effort to the advancement of science,” Beauford said, “and to help other people’s research to be able to reach its potential by accurately and precisely informing their efforts with the results of my own investigations.”

Source: The Arkansas Traveler

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