Meteoritics and Planetary Science
with Denton Ebel
Offered in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History
Monday, February 10, 2020

Meteorites’ impact craters have stories to tell, about the formation of solar systems, the interiors of planets, and the dynamic history of our own Solar System. This master class will start in The American Museum of Natural History’s recently updated Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites and continue behind the scenes to specimens in the AMNH meteorite collection with a discussion of the information they contain. Next, a visit to laboratories in Earth and Planetary Sciences will reveal how we interrogate these rocks through experiments to understand them better. Finally, Dr. Ebel will discuss the mission-based planetary science that informs the new, upcoming Hayden Planetarium show “Worlds Beyond Earth,” which he curated.

Denton Ebel is a geologist specializing in meteorites: pieces of planets and leftovers from the formation of the solar system. The distant, resource-rich asteroid belt is his chosen area of examination. Using thermodynamic models, he analyzes the effects of condensation, evaporation, and crystallization processes. Ebel combines electron-beam image analysis of surface chemistry (2D) with X-ray CAT-scan 3D imaging to look more deeply into the extraterrestrial samples for clues to the origin of the solar system. His group analyzes data from NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury, comet samples from the Stardust mission, and the geochemistry of samples from the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary.

 


 

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Photos by Pat Swain.

 

“Knowing what I know now, it’s amazing that I could teach a course without mentioning how essential [meteorites] are to our understanding of our solar system and earth formation. The science in this was so far beyond anything I’ve ever gotten in my 18 years of teaching.”
Heather Lochridge, Harvest Collegiate High School

 

Assigned readings:

 

Grady, M. M., and I. Wright. “Types of Extraterrestrial Material Available for Study.” In Meteorites and the Early Solar System II, edited by D. S. Lauretta and Harry Y. McSween. The University of Arizona Space Science Series. Tucson : Houston: University of Arizona Press ; In collaboration with Lunar and Planetary Institute, 2006. 3–18.

 

McCoy, T. J., M. K. Weisberg, and A. N. Krot. “Systematics and Evaluation of Meteorite Classification.” In Meteorites and the Early Solar System II, edited by D. S. Lauretta and Harry Y. McSween. The University of Arizona Space Science Series. Tucson : Houston: University of Arizona Press ; In collaboration with Lunar and Planetary Institute, 2006. 19–52.

 

Master Class Fellows