Field Museum Meteorite Resolves 35-Year-Old Debate

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 21:13 -- pheck

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. The team used specimens of the primitive meteorite Allende from The Field Museum collection, and François used the laser ablation mass spectrometer in the Museum’s Elemental Analysis Facility to determine the trace elemental compositions. Philipp Heck (Robert A. Pritzker Associate Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies) introduced François to the Museum’s collection and labs, and is delighted to see an example of how our collection can help advance scientific understanding. Details of the discovery appear in the March 4 edition of Science Advances and in this University of Chicago News Story.

Field Museum specimen ME 3364-3.2 with the pink-white inclusion that was studied by Tissot et al. The inclusion is one of the oldest minerals that formed in the Solar System about 4.6 billion years ago. Photo: University of Chicago.