It’s a very humbling experience to hold a chondrite (aka a meteorite containing chondrules). Never mind that you are holding something from outer space. You are also holding one of the oldest objects in the solar system (~4.5 billion year old). And its study can unlock many mysteries into how our solar system formed.
Meteorites are rocks originating from space (e.g., an asteroid, the moon, etc.). Possibly less familiar is the chondrule. Chondrules are tiny, circular grains of minerals formed in the protosolar nebula (a molecular cloud swirling around our proto-sun) by the rapid melting of accreting dust. The chondrite is composed of inclusions (i.e. chondrules) embedded in matrix, a fine-grained mixture of minerals. In many cases, chondrules are surrounded by a “rim” of fine-grained material that resembles the matrix but has different textural and compositional properties.
The question is when and where did the rims form? In the solar nebula or later in our solar system’s history? The answer is important to understanding the origins of the earliest solids and how our solar system evolved. Kim Fendrich, along with Vivian, Nathanael and Annie used an electron microprobe to map the meteorite’s elemental composition and are using Adobe Illustrator to process these maps and characterize the various features within them.
Specifically, they will categorize the inclusions and quantify their abundance, measure the size and distribution of rims, and observe chemical relationships between the various components. They are doing so in search of meaningful correlations that may help clarify the accretionary processes that took place during the early stages of solar system formation.