Fossil Meteorites on The Brain Scoop

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 10:32 -- pheck

Robert A. Pritzker Associate Curator for Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck talks with Brain Scoop host Emily Graslie about fossil meteorites.

The Brain Scoop host Emily Graslie talks with Philipp Heck about fossil meteorites. The Robert A. Pritzker Associate Curator for Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck studies fossil meteorites with collaborator and fossil meteorite pioneer Professor Birger Schmitz from Lund University since 2002 with a variety of analytical techniques. One of the main techniques used to study meteorites is Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) – that's why we recorded the interview in the Field Museum's SEM lab. The SEM is a standard technique to characterize the chemical composition of minerals in any meteorite, including fossil meteorites. Most minerals in fossil meteorites have been replaced during residence in the sediments by other minerals, except for the very robust mineral chromite and spinel. The minerals still retain their original composition and have not been affected during diagenesis in the sediments. By studying the composition of the chromites and spinels we can classify the meteorite and determine its travel time from its parent asteroid to Earth. The Field Museum recently received four fossil meteorites that will go on public display by the end of this year. These fossil meteorites reached Earth about 470 Million years ago in the geological period called Ordovician. They landed in a shallow ocean and got embedded in the sediments. They have been discovered in the last century in an active limestone quarry in Sweden. Thanks to the fortunate collaboration between the quarry owners, amateur geologist Mario Tassinari, and Professor of Geology Birger Schmitz, these meteorites are exclusively available to science and have been studied extensively.

Philipp Heck thanks the Brain Scoop team for their interest and excellent production, Drs. Birger Schmitz and Mario Tassinari for pioneering the field of fossil meteorite research and the fruitful collaboration over the last twelve years, Betty Strack for managing the SEM Lab and for keeping it in excellent condition, and the Tawani Foundation for funding of our research project on fossil meteorites at the Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies.