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How To Hunt A Space Rock

October 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Peter Willis and his team of researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., had a problem. Actually, more like they had a solution that needed a problem. Confused? Let’s let Peter give it a shot…

“My team and I came up with a new lab on a chip,” said Willis, a scientist at JPL’s Microdevices Lab. “It essentially miniaturizes an automated sample processing and analysis instrument that could be put aboard future spacecraft and sent to distant planets, moons and asteroids. One challenge we have is finding new and interesting samples to try our chip on.”

The team had already gone into the field in quest of unique samples. Among their previous expeditions, they had hunted down trilobite fossils at the lava field in Amboy, Calif., and gathered samples from a hydrothermal vent near Yosemite National Park. But Willis and crew knew that when testing something destined for another world, it is good to try it on something not of this world. What they needed was a sign from above. On the evening of Aug. 21, 2012, a large fireball that turned night into day was reported over a mountain range halfway between Reno and Salt Lake City. By convention, the meteorite was named after the nearest town or prominent geographic feature.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-320

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Meteorite Delivers Martian Secrets To U of A Researcher

October 13, 2012 Leave a comment

A meteorite that landed in the Moroccan desert 14 months ago is providing more information about Mars, the planet where it originated.University of Alberta researcher Chris Herd helped in the study of the Tissint meteorite, in which traces of Mars’ unique atmosphere are trapped.

“Our team matched traces of gases found inside the Tissint meteorite with samples of Mars’ atmosphere collected in 1976 by Viking, NASA’s Mars lander mission,” said Herd.Herd explained that the meteorite started out 600 million years ago as a fairly typical volcanic rock on the surface of Mars, until it was launched off the planet by the impact of an asteroid.

“At the instant of that impact with Mars, a shock wave shot through the rock,” said Herd. “Cracks and fissures within the rock were sealed instantly by the heat, trapping components of Mars’ atmosphere inside, and forming black, glassy spots.”

Full Story: http://www.news.ualberta.ca/article.aspx?id=91FF057804334BFB8A54C71DDC27A6B3