Photo of 2012 Sutter's Mill meteor by Lisa Warren
Meteorites & Solar System History
ISIS-230 / EOS-230 / Meteoritics

Wednesdays, 10:05 - 12:55 (170 minutes (2 hours 50 minutes))
155 min (2 hours 35 minutes) with 15 min break
Perkins LINK Classroom #6

Spring 2013 CALENDAR (preliminary and subject to change)
Tentative Topics
A Selection of Meteorite-Related Images
Week 0

January 16


  • /\/\//\ BREAK /\/\/\

Meteoritical Bulletin Database (FREE)
IMCA Encyclopedia of Meteorites (FREE)
MetBase - Meteorite Information Database (BY SUBSCRIPTION ONLY) We probably won't use it, but it's posted here for the record.

Monica Grady, CATALOGUE OF METEORITES. 5th Edition. I have uploaded excerpts to our SAKAI resources and summoned an older edition to Library reserves.
Vagn Buchwald, HANDBOOK OF IRON METEORITES (UC Press, 1975). I have uploaded excerpts to our SAKAI resources and summoned all 3 volumes to Library reserves.

We need to gather relevant well-sourced materials in DIGITAL form (e.g. .pdfs and images). Remember to attach complete references and bibliography.
Please prepare your research accordingly and upload it to your DROP-BOX on our SAKAI pages.

Challenge 1: Pick (two of the 29 known meteorites from North Carolina) or (one meteorite and one related topic). Who signed up for what is here.
For the meteorites:

a) UPLOAD: Beginning with the CATALOGUE OF METEORITES and/or the HANDBOOK OF IRON METEORITES, locate and assemble all the original published accounts of this meteorite and the circumstances of its fall or recovery as well as any other resources you can find (e.g. library, internet, newspaper accounts).
Note: the relevent pages from the CATALOGUE and HANDBOOK have been uploaded to our SAKAI site, but the references have been omitted. An earlier copy of the CATALOGUE and a rare original copy of the 3 volumes of the HANDBOOK have been ordered to our Library reserves.

b) UPLOAD: Images of the original discovery, of the main mass(es) and of cut sections illustrating the composition of these meteorites.
Note: We don't want every picture, just enough to get an idea of its recovery, composition and history..

c) UPLOAD: Screen captures (Alt/PrintScreen) of two GoogleEarth images of the original find location: one at a scale of 1 mile to the width of the display, and one at a scale of 2 miles to the width of the display.
Note: The Meteoritical Bulletin Database provides a link to see a map of those coordinates.

d) ON PAPER TO DISCUSS AND TURN IN DURING CLASS: What patterns can you observe in the posted list of North Carolina meteorites? Why have none been reported for the last 80 years? Based on your analysis, how would you go about finding more?
Note: You may wish to use the Excel file posted here. You can sort it in different ways to see what patterns emerge.

For the related topics, we are particularly interested in acquiring pointers to maps and charts of this data:

e) UPLOAD: How has the population grown over time and space?
f) UPLOAD: How has land use (in particular deep-plowed agricultural practice) grown and shifted over time and space? What crops necessitate deep or shallow plowing?
g) UPLOAD: How has mineral prospecting (in particular the gold rush) progressed over time and space?
h) UPLOAD: What resources (particularly on the Web) do we have to map Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands?
i) UPLOAD: What resources (particularly on the Web) do we have to determine Land Status (ownership) of various tracts of land?

Who signed up for what is here.

Prepare to turn in and discuss the patterns that you noticed, item "d",
See what you can gather by next Wednesday and prepare to present what you have found.









Week 1

January 16

PARTICIPANT PRESENTATIONS on Meteorites of North Carolina.

A stoney-iron (pallasite), a Martian, a Lunar and one North Carolina meteorite.


Search strategies in California.



Continue to do research on your meteorites along with COMPLETE source citations. The CATALOGUE OF METEORITES and HANDBOOK OF IRON METEORITES are now available on Reserve so you now have their notes, references and bibliographies available...

  1. Upload FULL-SIZE Google-Earth images (1 mile & 2 mile).
  2. Upload FULL-TEXT (.pdf or .jpg) of ALL references listed in Buchwald (IRONS) and Catalog of Meteorites (BMNH)
  3. Upload ALL "significant photos" of the fall or find

Readings on Meteorite recovery:

  1. SMITH: 1-27
  2. ZANDA: 1-29
  3. NORTON: 175-199:

Discussion (on SAKAI):

What strategies might we employ to recover more of the known, or more new meteorites, in North Carolina? How feasable are they in various situations? Don't forget to use the Internet to gather more information on topics such as Doppler Radar, All-Sky Camera Networks and high-end metal detectors...

Week 2

January 23

CHARACTERISTICS & CLASSIFICATION BY EYE:The History of Meteoritics and Key Meteorite Collections

Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni (1756-1827) and the Origins of modern Meteorite Research, by ursula B. Marvin. (On SAKAI resources.)


Week 3

January 30

For those who haven't yet presented.

Martians, Lunars, Irons...

Alan Rubin's "Lecture 2" (I will upload this to SAKAI).


  1. SMITH: 43-87
  2. ZANDA:50-67
  3. NORTON: 75-173


Please continue to seek out references to the recovery of the 29 North Carolina falls and finds. The first place to look is in catalogs and reference books on meteorites. Then specially published reports, monographs and articles. We are primarily interested in information that could lead us to recovering more of these specimens, so at this time papers on the analysis of the meteorites is less of a priority. Of particular interest would be old newspaper accounts of these falls and finds. There is no index to these. Rather one must search through newspapers that published in the area at about the same time.

The research desk staff at Perkins library can help you locate obscure references. If you find that there are some rare publications that we need, or that we need to pay a fee to access certain archives, please let me know and I will find the funds to do so...


Next week we host a presentation by Dr. Ronen Plesser. He probably will not fill our 3-hour time slot, so I will ask you to stay and work on gathering and reviewing simulations that you find on the Web. But why wait? You can begin any time...

Week 4

February 6

(I will be among the meteoriticists and meteorites in Tucson)

Guest presentation by
on the Universe and Solar System:


A green fusion-crusted meteorite from Mercury? Have a look at the article from Sky & Telescope as well as some exceptional photographs: one, two, three, four.


(2-4 pages, typed, single-spaced on paper)
Harvey Nininger was credited with reviving the scientific interest in meteorites in the 1930s. A prolific self-taught hunter, lecturer and writer, he amassed one of the largest collections in his time. Just days ago, Bob Haag and Mike Farmer gave an unguarded and candid interview for French TV on the adventure of field work. Have a look:Interviews with professional meteorite hunters and dealers Bob Haag and Mike Farmer.. Conduct some research (mostly online) and compare and contrast their lives and attitudeswhile being sensitive to the historical and cultural norms in which they worked or continue working...


Especially for those of you who reached "dead-ends" researching the NC meteorites you picked, take some time to search the Internet to find some effective visualizations and simulations of the complex processes surrounding the formation, evolution, flight and recovery of meteorites. Post your critical review of the resource along with a URL reference to its acquisition. I will open up a FORUM on SAKAI for your critiques.

Week 5

February 13




A) I have loaded Brett Gladman's article on meteorites from Mercury onto our SAKAI resources. I will also load an article by Love & Kiel on Mercurian meteorites. Please read these and whatever resources you might find on the Internet and provide me with a written critique of the link I posted last week:
"A green fusion-crusted meteorite from Mercury? Have a look at the article from Sky & Telescope as well as some exceptional photographs: one, two, three, four."
(2-4 pages single-spaced on paper).

B) I have loaded the short PowerPoint on some quantative and qualitative distinctions of chondritic meteorite classifications onto our SAKAI resources. With this, you assigned readings and whatever resources you might find on the Internet, prepare a "cheat-sheet" to help you identify a chondrite type from the outward appearance of a piece "as-found" or a slice using only your eyes and perhaps a hand-lens our loupe. (1-3 pages single-spaced on paper). I will bring in some whole meteorites and slices on Wednesday. I will pass them around and let's see how well we can do. I expect you to make a serious and well-considered try at identification (and will ask you for notes as to why you made that identification), but I won't necessarily criticize you for being wrong.

Week 6

February 20

Session for ID-ing chondrites.
Screening Chelyabinsk videos.

For next week:

  1. Prepare notes (a cheat sheet) on identifying achondrites (differentiated meteorites). Don't forget to focus on characteristics you can evaluate from hand specimens.
  2. Follow up with a 2-4 page synopsis and critique of some aspect of the Chelyabinsk event: Suggested topics include, but are not limited to: cultural significance, reactions way back when and now, the marketplace, determination of the meteoroids trajectory, explaining the cloud's (the tail or trail) complex configuration, seismic evidence, infrasound, temporal patterns in the sonic booms and cracks, analysis of the meteorite, etc
Week 7

February 27

Session for ID-ing achondrites and a recap on ID-ing chondrites.
This time I have given you the official names of all the chondrites and achondrites.
And I also have loupes and microscopes available. Please make use of them.

  • For the chondrites (undifferentiated meteorites), retreive the notes you made on them as well as the ID-ing page.
    Please revisit all of them. Highlight the observations you got right. Look anew for
    features that would lead you to the correct classification.
  • For the achondrites (differentiated meteorites), Knowing in advance what each meteorite is (consult the
    Meteoritical Bulletin Database), a
    nnotate each with notes of features you can see in slabs or
    in the rough which would lead you to the correct classification.


  • New videos on the Chelyabinsk meteor and Cherbakul meteorite.
  • Participant presentations on various aspects of the Chelyabinsk event

Readings on asteroids, comets, impacts & solar system:

  1. SMITH: 28-41, 89-107
  2. ZANDA: 30-49, 68-127
  3. NORTON: 1-71
Week 8

March 6

REVIEW: Where do we go from here?
Please email me your interests and suggestions..

Update any contributions to our SAKAI pages.
We are always looking for new simulations and visualizations of complex processes.

DUE on return from Spring Break:
Professional Research on NWA 5738.
What does it mean? See what you can glean from the reports.
Please try to summarize what you've read.
What do you understand, what don't you understand.


Week 9

March 13


Week 10

March 20

DUE (on paper) today:
Professional Research on NWA 5738.

What does it mean? See what you can glean from the reports.
Please try to summarize what you've read.
What do you understand, what don't you understand.

Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, today, Wednesday 20 March 2013:
Special Session: Vesta as the HED (Howardite, Eucrite, Diogenite) Parent Body.

Laboratory Update:
Several Chelyabinsk / Chebarkul meteorites including a boxfull are on their way from Russia.
Rock cutting, grinding and polishing equipment has arrived.
hin section preparation equipment is due to arrive.
Some high-end microscopes and microscope cameras should arrive by next week.

Mineral series end-members:

  • Plagioclase: Albite (NaAlSi3O8) through Anorthite (CaAl2Si2O8).
  • Olivine: Forsterite (Mg2SiO4) through Fayalite (Fe2SiO4).
  • Pyroxene: Enstatite (MgSiO3) through Ferrosilite (FeSi03).
    Dioptase (CaMgSi2O6) through Hedenbergite (CaFeSi2O6)

Please read on SAKAI the following which discuss direct evidence of the history of Solar System:

  • Schoene - Precision and Accuracy in Geochronology (background information)
  • * Amelin - Dating the Oldest Rocks in the Solar System.
  • * Ruben - Secrets of Primitive Meteorites.
  • Ruben - Chemical Fractionaltion in Chonodrites: The Roles of Chondrule Formation and the Acquisition of CAIs and Forsterite-Rich Dust. (Optional on the Web here. A more technical version of the above.)
  • * Ruben - What Heated the Asteroids.

DUE (on paper) next week:
How do these interrelate in revealing early Solar System evolution?
What are the oldest isotopes, elements and minerals that we find in meteorites?

Next week we meet in the ALiCE lab, near East Campus at Smith Warehouse Bay 11.
Snacks will be available.
You must enter through Bay 12 and go upstairs. Then cross over through the doors to Bay 11.
We will do some meteorite sorting, cutting, sampling and microscope work.
You will probably get your hands dirty and oily (non-toxic oils of course).

COURSE PROJECT (Due as a presentation and to be handed in on the last day of class.)
Discussion: What do you want to do?
Go to the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference website.
Click on "Programs and Abstracts," and then on "View Programs and Abstracts."
Browse the conference presentations. Pick a topic and perhaps two or three papers which address a similar question. Write (on paper) a critical review of the presentations, and prepare to present to us a synopsis and your asessment of the arguments in class.

Week 11

March 27

We meet in the ALiCE lab, near East Campus at Smith Warehouse Bay 11.
You must enter through Bay 12 and go upstairs. Then cross over through the doors to Bay 11.

I will ask you to characterize seven (7) recently arrived specimens of Chelyabinsk from Russia.
Actually I cheated. One of the seven is NOT a meteorite. It is a quartzite pebble that I picked up on the roadside.
What looks like fusion crust is actually black tar from the asphalt. Don't worry, you won't be marked down for not
discovering the deception. However, you should have noted that it is remarkably different from the others.

Next week we will meet again in ALiCE lab to do some cutting and grinding and perhaps even preparing and polishing
thin-sections. With luck, cameras will be installed on the petrographic microscopes and we will also do some thin-section

For next week:
1) Read the new article from the LPSC by Dr. Irving arguing for a Mercurian origin for the meteorite with the bright
chartreuse fusion crust that we read about earlier this semester. Please write a critique of his presentation. Is it
convincing or not? Why?
2) Have a look at and play with the simulation of orbiting bodies that we are developing our class on computing complexity.
It produces many wandering and rotating ellipses and often flower-like and knot-like trajectories. Please compare these
behaviors with some of the simulations you reported on earlier in the course. Is the behavior of the simulation that we
wrote accurate? Or is the behavior of our simulation the result of "artifacts" of the way the celestial mechanics are
encoded. The simulation is here:
The simulation is called "Flocking Orbits - Version 23c".

Week 12

April 3

We meet in the ALiCE lab, near East Campus at Smith Warehouse Bay 11.
You must enter through Bay 12 and go upstairs. Then cross over through the doors to Bay 11.

A) We begin an analysis of the meteorite finds from Tungsten Mountain, Nevada.
Check out the Meteoritical Bulletin Database under "Tungsten Mountain."
There you will find several types identified:
L 6, H4, H5, H6, and CV3
What we want to do is to sort through our collection (of perhaps 1000 pieces) and identify
each by eye as best we can. We certainly want to separate out the carbonaceous chondrites,
the Ls from the Hs and check to see if we can find any "new" types for analysis.

The meteorites are separated in bags, pockets and phials.

  • Step 1: With a Sharpie, we write a letter on each container (e.g. A, B, C... X, Y, Z, AA, BB, CC...)
  • Step 2: In our Blue Log Book we record the letter of that container and the exact number (count them twice) of specimens it contains. Leave enough space for ten entries, one for each specimen, on each page, and a page or two extra. So for 100 specimens leave 12 pages. A team that is meticulous at record keeping should keep this log. Once each container is entered, the team can then begin entering numbers for each specimen beginning with the number "1" through however many specimens there are in the entire collection. In other words, if container "A" contains 17 specimens, the specimens in container "B" begin with the number 18. Consequently, each number completely identifies a unique specimen, and with the aid of the Blue Log Book, will tell us which container it is in.
  • Step 3: As each container is recorded in this fashion, each person can then take one container and a paper plate and "window" every specimen using the diamond "stones" in the Pyrex trays with water. Pick a side that is already flat to window, since we don't want to loose too much material. Examine each one under a microscope and sort them by type (LL, L, H, C, etc). Let me know if you come across any carbonaceous chondrites or anything unusual. Blot them off with paper towells and put them in the paper plate to dry. Be sure to use the Sharpie to mark the plate (A, B, C etc) and draw lines separating the different types.
  • Step 4: Once the specimens are dry, taking care to place them back on the same paper plate in the same position, paint a small patch on the flattened side with WhiteOut. When the WhiteOut is thoroughly dry, use India Ink or a fine pigment pen to number each specimen VERY NEATLY. If there is enough room, mark the specimen with the letters "TM" and the number. If there is not enough room, simply mark it with the number only.
  • Step 5: We enter into the Blue Log Book the type of each specimen and how much it weights, in grams. We then store the specimens by type (LL, L, H, C, etc).
  • Step 6: From the Blue Log Book we enter all this information into the computer and run some gross statistics.
  • Step 7: We pick some of the more interesting specimens for characterization an thin sectioning.

B) We are unlikely to have much SEM so we've brought the SEM imagery to you:
We have some exquisitely detailed mosaic images from UCLA of two classical unequilibrated chondrites:
Semarkona LL 3.00 (the type specimen for 3.00), and
Krymka LL 3.2 (which may be closer to unequilibrated than Semarkona).
A lot of time and effort went into making these and we need to respect that work so
we will likely only use snapshots of some details of chondrules and shock features. by using these images you agree not to disclose them to anyone for any purpose outside the scope of this challenge.

Survey these images carefully for characteristics that may give clues
to the history of the rock. Select, copy and paste these clues into smaller images that you can take with you
to study later.

For next week, please prepare "catalog" of these images along with an explanation of how these structures
got to be the way they are.
Your catalog should include various chondrule types, condrules with complex histories,
evidence of shock and other anomalous and interesting structures.

These articles on SAKAI may help you with interpreting those images:

  • Hewins - Chondrule Precursors and Nebular Gas
  • Jones - Diversity of Chondrules in the Protoplanetary Disk
  • Alan Ruben - Microchondrules in KRYMKA.
  • Semenenko - Fine Grained Material in Krymka.
  • Semenenko - Shock Melted Material in Krymka.

This article is on the Web may also help:

Week 13

April 10:

Meet in Smith Warehouse

For next week:
1) Sheryl Singerling has just completed her honors thesis entitled “THE FARMVILLE METEORITE: A SAMPLE OF THE PRIMORDIAL SOLAR NEBULA” for the Department of Geology at UNC Chapel Hill.  I have uploaded it to SAKAI.  Please read it closely (you may need to Google some of the terms and concepts she discusses).  How has she added to our knowledge of that meteorite?  Please be as specific as possible.  You may need to focus on certain aspects of her work to do this effectively.  Please turn this in (on paper) next week.

2) Some students in my course on simulation have been working on interactions of asteroid orbits with massive objects (e.g. the Sun, Mars and Jupiter).  One such simulation is on the ALiCE Lab computers.  Others are on the Web.  Explore those simulations (e.g. play with them).  What orbital trajectories qualitatively match the realities of resonances that you have read about (if any)?  Please do some screen shots of relevant resonant (or unusual) patterns and annotate them with your explanations.  Please turn this in (on paper) next week.

Week 14

April 17

Meet in Classroom #6

Course Projects:
As we continue to install equipment, there may still be opportunities to do some additional lab work as a final course project. If you are interested, please keep in touch. Also, if the lead on a meteorite crater from the 1930s pans out, and we get permission from the land-owner, you might be interested in joining us on a field trip.

Characterizing Chondrites, Handouts:
Obtaining Provisional Meteorite Names from the Meteoritical Society.
Submitting Final Meteorite Names to the Meteoritical Society for publication in the Meteorite Bulletin.
Rhian Jones' 1998 "Olivine and Pyroxene Compositions in Type 4-7 Ordinary Chondrites.
Chart of Fe/Mg/Ca composition of Olivines and Pyroxenes.

At 11:00 we visit Alan Boudreau's microprobe lab to demonstrate the equipment.
Hannah Aird will demonstrate the equipment on our thin sections of Breja and Xining.

For Next Week:
Take notes on the numbers we obtain from the microprobe. Plot them against the charts in Rhian Jones' paper and determine the types of the meteorites that we analyze.

Course Improvement:
As you know, this is the first time Duke has offered a course in Meteoritics and this is the first time I have taught one. Duke has provided the classroom and laboratory space and some supplies. I have provided the equipment and meteorite collection. It has always been a problem that the computer lab and physical lab are a mile apart. So the course has always been, from its inception, experimental. I have elected to run the course as a cross between a seminar and an independent study, giving you the greatest leeway to explore those aspects that you personally find most interesting. Consequently, you will be graded on your demonstrated engagement with the material.

Course Evaluations:

We continually look to you for advice on how to improve your experience as a participant in the course. We are particularly interested in your suggestions as to how we can effectively integrate lectures, presentations, discussions, laboratory and field work. We are also interested in knowing what you think of the texts and readings. I would like to immerse you in both introductory and advanced material and I realize that it is difficult to jump from one to the other without a thorough grounding. These are some of the complexities we are trying to balance for next years' offering. I look forward to your advice on finding practical solutions to these problems.

Week 15

April 24

Meet in Classroom #6

Coffee - Refreshments

Keep your eyes open through the summer for meteorites.
If you don't look, you won't find.
If you do, you might.

Drop by our lab in the Fall...

Week 15



!!! No Final / Have a Great Summer / Find Lots of Meteorites !!!