Astronomers traditionally study stars and planets using telescopes. But we can also learn about them by using microscopes – through studying meteorites. From meteorites, we can learn about the processes and materials that shaped the Solar System and our planet. Tiny grains in meteorites have come from earlier exploding stars, the stuff from which the Sun was born. This can be studied in the lab.
Meteorites are ancient natural objects that survive their fall to Earth from space. They are the oldest things that we have for study. Some are metallic but most are stony. Almost all are fragments from asteroids and were formed at the birth of the Solar System about 4570 million years ago. They vary widely in composition, spanning a whole range of planetary materials: some are completely unmelted stony `chondrites' while others are different forms of iron. Meteorites carry records of all stages of Solar System history. For example, meteorites from the Moon and Mars help us understand how those bodies formed and evolved.
In her lecture, Monica will describe how the microscope is another tool that can be employed to trace stellar and planetary processes.
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