Pallasite meteorite under the microscope! Colors are dependent on mineral type! Credit: Caitlin Ahrens.

Pallasite meteorite under the microscope! Colors are dependent on mineral type! Credit: Caitlin Ahrens.

Hello Earthlings!

Today I will be introducing you to the study of thin sections involving meteorites! Thin sections, if you've taken a biology class or microscope kit for Christmas, are the thin pieces of glass that have some sort of material to be studied under a lens at tens to hundreds times in size! 

Meteorites can be thinly spliced and be displayed within these pieces of glass. This process is a very careful work to not break or fracture the material. It also depends on the type of meteorite- if its chondritic (softer) or iron and stony (harder). 

Microscopes are different as well depending on what you want to study with the meteorite! Some are electron-based, X-ray-based, and proton-based- each of these "tune" the atomic levels of the mineral makeup of the meteorite to show the chemical structures. The microscope I want to mention for today is the petrographic microscope! This is a microscope commonly used by mineralogists (geologists that study minerals and rocks). This microscope's platform where the slide rests on is called a turn-table, where you can rotate the slide to show the different angles of the minerals in the thin section! 

Minerals that are very common in meteorites include olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase feldspars, and other iron and nickel-based minerals. While attending the Eighth International Conference on Mars in 2014, an announcement was made that two NEW minerals were found in a Martian meteorite! How cool is that? Two minerals that have not been found or created on Earth, but rather found in a rare basaltic-black meteorite sample from Mars! These minerals are now named: Ahrensite and Tissintite. You can read the preliminary article here: http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2014/pdf/1222.pdf

Meteorites are quite beautiful under a microscope and I wanted to share with you some pictures I have personally taken with meteorites from my personal collection. These pallasites- meteorites that have gem-like chunks of olivine- have been made into thin sections from the University of Iowa. 

Beautiful olivine mineral under the microscope from a pallasite meteorite! Credit: Caitlin Ahrens.

Beautiful olivine mineral under the microscope from a pallasite meteorite! Credit: Caitlin Ahrens.

Another picture of a pallasite meteorite thin section! Look at those fractures!!! Credit: Caitlin Ahrens.

Another picture of a pallasite meteorite thin section! Look at those fractures!!! Credit: Caitlin Ahrens.

If you or know someone who is an educator that would like to borrow meteorite thin sections for educational use, check out NASA's ARES program: https://ares.jsc.nasa.gov/interaction/lmdp/

Thank you for visiting and next week we will have a look on what Juno has found about Jupiter's crazy storms and a lab update!