Meteorites rich with information, expert says

March 28, 2007 By Elizabeth K. Gardner

A Purdue University professor on Wednesday (March 28) said at national convention that meteorites hold many clues into the creation and evolution of the solar system.
Michael Lipschutz, a professor of inorganic chemistry and cosmochemistry, gave a presentation titled "Lessons from Meteorites" at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Chicago. His presentation featured information from a chapter he authored in the new Encyclopedia of the Solar System (Academic Press).

"Meteorites are the poor man's space probe," Lipschutz said. "They offer otherwise unobtainable information and contain the oldest known materials. Some contain materials created before the solar system was formed and illustrate processes that occurred 4.56 billion years ago. No other accessible material provides such information, and they are delivered right to us."

Meteorites are metallic or stony objects that fall to the Earth from outer space. They are fragments of the minor planets (asteroids) or larger masses in the solar system such as Mars and our moon, he said.

More than 31,000 meteorites have been found on Earth, with weights ranging from less than one gram to 60 metric tons.

"The amount of information available through meteorites is astounding," he said. "If one picture is worth 1,000 words, then one meteorite sample is worth 1,000 pictures."

Meteorites record and date solar and galactic events and reveal details about the composition of the Earth and other planets, asteroids and the sun. Meteorites also are critical to supplementing and interpreting data gathered from remote sensing technology, he said.

"Meteorites are pristine samples of solar system matter, and their chemical and physical properties give us 'ground truths' about their planet of origin as if we had taken measurements on the planet's surface, " Lipschutz said. "These 'ground truths' are used to calibrate our remote sensing instruments and as correlative data."

Lipschutz's presentation at the conference was part of the session titled "Chemical Evolution: Chemical Change Across Space and Time."

Source: Purdue University

Explore further: What is interplanetary dust and can it spread the ingredients of life?

Related Stories

Results of the Rosetta mission before perihelion

October 30, 2015

Astronomy & Astrophysics is publishing a special feature of 46 articles that present the results obtained by the Rosetta mission before the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko reached its perihelion.

Saturn's "Yin-Yang" moon Iapetus

October 29, 2015

Thanks to the Cassini mission, a great many things have been learned about the Saturn system in recent years. In addition to information on Saturn's atmosphere, rotation and its beautiful and extensive ring system, many revelations ...

Asteroids found to be the moon's main 'water supply'

October 1, 2015

Water reserves found on the moon are the result of asteroids acting as "delivery vehicles" and not of falling comets as was previously thought. Using computer simulation, scientists from MIPT and the RAS Geosphere Dynamics ...

Recommended for you

Four pre-Inca tombs found in Peru's Lima

November 27, 2015

Archaeologists in Peru have found four tombs that are more than 1,000 years old in a pyramid-shaped cemetery that now sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Lima, experts said.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.