AGB Laboratory highlighted at NASA event during Ultima Thule flyby on New Year’s Eve

NASA’s  New Horizons spacecraft passed within 2200 miles of  object 2014 MU69, also called “Ultima Thule”,  in the Kuiper Belt 6.6 billion kilometres from Earth and 1.6 billion kilometres beyond Pluto. Ultima Thule is the most distant object ever studied up-close by humans.

At the NOVA-NASA event in connection with the flyby at New Years Eve Walter Alvarez gave a talk entitled “Studying the Solar System by looking down”.

Astronomers enjoy “Evening with Champagne and Hydrofluoric Acid” at the Astrogeobiology Laboratory

As a part of the meeting Impacts in Planetary Systems in Lund May 15-17, 2017, the participants were invited to a mingle session “Evening with Champagne and Hydrofluoric Acid at the Astrogeobiology Laboratory”

Among the ca. 70 minglers most were astronomers, but all with a great interest, not only in the champagne and good cheese that was served, but also our peculiar way of doing astronomy by dissolving ancient sedimentary rocks in acids.

Our lab was visited by several of the leaders in research on the evolution of the solar system and the asteroid belt based on space-based astronomical data. This opened up for many interesting discussions and much cross-disciplinary transferal of knowledge.

Note that the participants were not allowed to bring champagne or cheese into the acid laboratories!

Download the Full programme of the Impacts in the Planetary Systems meeting. programme-v1.5.2

Birger Schmitz explains the basic idea behind the Astrogeobiology Laboratory
Birger Schmitz explains the basic idea behind the Astrogeobiology Laboratory

 

The principles of stratigraphy and sedimentology.
The principles of stratigraphy and sedimentology. The rock section on the floor represents strata formed on the sea floor during two million years in the Ordovician period.

 

Enthusiastic astronomers.
Enthusiastic astronomers.

 

Barry Webb from Berkeley
Barry Welsh from UC Berkeley explained how efforts now are made to search in a more focused way for radio signals from regions of the universe where habitable exoplanets have been found, rather than from space in general.

 

Astronomers getting excited over a piece of rock being dissolved in acid.
Astronomers getting excited over a piece of rock being dissolved in acid.

 

Astronomers learning about our HCl-dissolution process.
Astronomers learning about our HCl-dissolution process.
Astronomers learning about our HCl-dissolution process.
Astronomers learning about our HCl-dissolution process.
What is left of 100 kg of sedimentary rock after treatment with HCl and HF
What is left of 100 kg of sedimentary rock after treatment with HCl and HF
The many articles by Bill Bottke (to the right) and David Nesvorny (left) from the University of Colorado, Boulder, on the evolution of the asteroid belt have been a central and strong source of inspiration to the work in the Astrogeobiology Laboratory. It was a very special, positive feeling to now have them as guests in the lab.
The many articles by Bill Bottke (to the right) and David Nesvorny (left) from the University of Colorado, Boulder, on the evolution of the asteroid belt have been a central and strong source of inspiration to the work in the Astrogeobiology Laboratory. It was a very special, positive feeling to now have them as guests in the lab.
To the left Christian Koeberl, who was an invited speaker at the Impacts meeting. He is the Director of the Vienna Natural History Museum and one of the world’s leading expert on impacts, To the right, his wife Dona Jalufka, a talented artist often using themes related to space research. Also Christian and Dona have been sources of much inspiration over the decades.
To the left Christian Koeberl, who was an invited speaker at the Impacts meeting. He is the Director of the Vienna Natural History Museum and one of the world’s leading expert on impacts, To the right, his wife Dona Jalufka, a talented artist often using themes related to space research. Also Christian and Dona have been sources of much inspiration over the decades.

 

Meteorite flux has changed in deep time – First experimental results published in Nature Astronomy

In February 2017 we published the article Rare Meteorites Common in the Ordovician Period in Nature Astronomy.  This the first empirical reconstruction of variations in the meteorite flux to Earth in deep time. We show that the meteorites falling  on Earth in the Ordovician period one million years before the L-chondrite parent body breakup were very different from todays meteorites.  We show that primitive achondrites that are extremely rare in today’s flux were one of the most common types of Ordovician meteorites. The article was accompanied by a News and Views item “Meteorites: A shift in shooting stars” by Francesca DeMeo at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US. Our article received much media attention,  reaching an altmetric value in the top 99th percentile.

The article in Nature Astronomy can be found here 2017-Nature Astronomy.pdf, and the accompanying News and Views item here: DeMeo.pdf.

Doing astronomy by “looking down, instead of up”. Fredrik Terfelt collects some of the 270 kg of Ordovician rock from which the micrometeoritic spinels grains for the Nature Astronomy paper were recovered. The Lynna River section in the St. Petersburg region of Russia.

First reconstruction of Mesozoic meteorite flux published in Geology – no signs of a Baptistina asteroid breakup event

We just published completed another of our first “windows” into the meteorite flux to Earth in deep time. We extracted and analyzed 108 extraterrestrial spinels from 1652 kg of pelagic limestone from  the Lower Cretaceous Maiolica Formation in the Apennines of Italy.  You find the paper here: 9-2017Schmitz-Geology

The crew that did the first pilot sampling in July 2014, Jan Smit, Walter Alvarez, and Birger, Laura and Nelly Schmitz, in front of the micrometeorite-rich bed MMA 36 of the Maiolica Formation. The pilot samples showed that the Maiolica limestone is perfect for our type of work, being extremely pure and very easy to dissolve.
The crew that did the first pilot sampling in July 2014, Jan Smit, Walter Alvarez, and Birger, Laura and Nelly Schmitz, in front of the micrometeorite-rich bed MMA 36 of the Maiolica Formation. The pilot samples showed that the Maiolica limestone is perfect for our type of work, being extremely pure and very easy to dissolve.
Karl Terfelt collects 300 kg of Maiolica limestone bed MMA 335.
Karl Terfelt collects 300 kg of Maiolica limestone bed MMA 335.