Meteorites rich with information, expert says

Mar 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: Jumping hurdles in the RNA world

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A close-up with a comet

Nov 11, 2014

Even as Tom Economou approached retirement age in 1994, he began planning an instrument for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission to a comet. He still remembers the reaction of Riccardo Levi-Setti, ...

Explainer: How does our sun shine?

Aug 28, 2014

What makes our sun shine has been a mystery for most of human history. Given our sun is a star and stars are suns, explaining the source of the sun's energy would help us understand why stars shine. ...

Recommended for you

Jumping hurdles in the RNA world

Nov 21, 2014

Astrobiologists have shown that the formation of RNA from prebiotic reactions may not be as problematic as scientists once thought.

User comments : 0

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.