On Monday, February 6, 2017 around 1:30 AM local time many inhabitants of the Midwest saw a bright fireball shooting across the night sky. Some even heard a sonic boom. The Field Museum's Invertebrate Collections Manager Paul Mayer woke up from the sonic boom: "I was staying in Fredonia, Wisconsin and was woken up by a large boom that shook the whole house. It sounded like thunder and I thought maybe it was a train hitting something. I got up and looked out the window, but did not see anything.
Four hundred and sixty-six million years ago, there was a giant collision in outer space. Something hit an asteroid and broke it apart, sending chunks of rock falling to Earth as meteorites since before the time of the dinosaurs. But what kinds of meteorites were making their way to Earth before that collision?
University of Chicago postdoctoral scientist Levke Kööp, Robert A. Pritzker Associate Curator Philipp Heck, and colleagues from the Universities of Chicago, Wisconsin, and Hawaii, recently published two articles in the journal Geochimica and Cosmochimica Acta. The focus of their work was on some of the first materials that formed in the Solar System, i.e., inclusions in meteorites rich in the mineral hibonite.
Philipp Heck (Robert A. Pritzker Associate Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies), Surya Rout (Postdoctoral Research Scientist), Krysten Villalon (Univ. of Chicago Graduate Student) and Lund University’s Professor Birger Schmitz (also a Field Museum Research Associate) with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin published a new paper on 470-million-year-old fossil micrometeorites recovered from marine sediments in Sweden and Russia.
University of Chicago graduate student François Tissot, along with his advisor Professor Nicolas Dauphas and Professor Emeritus Larry Grossman (both FMNH Research Associates), have discovered evidence that a rare element, curium, was present during the formation of the Solar System. The finding ends a 35-year-old debate on its possible presence in the early Solar System, and plays a crucial role in reassessing models of stellar evolution and synthesis of elements in stars.