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Meteoritics is a science that deals with meteorites and other extraterrestrial materials that further our understanding of the origin and history of the Solar System. A specialist who studies meteoritics is known as a meteoriticist.
History of investigation
|This section is incomplete. (December 2012)|
Before the documentation of L'Aigle it was generally believed that meteorites were a type of superstition and those who claimed to see them fall from space were lying.
Methods of investigation
The presence or absence of certain minerals is indicative of physical and chemical processes. Impacts on the parent body are recorded by impact-breccias and high-pressure mineral phases (e.g. coesite, akimotoite, majorite, ringwoodite, stishovite, wadsleyite). Water bearing minerals are an indicator for hydrothermal activity on the parent body (e.g. clay minerals).
Radiometric methods can be used to date different stages of the history of a meteorite. Condensation from the solar nebula is recorded by calcium-aluminium-rich inclusions and chondrules. These can be dated by using radionuclides that were present in the solar nebula (e.g. 26Al/26Mg, 53Mn/53Cr, U/Pb, 129I/129Xe). After the condensed material accretes to planetesimals of sufficient size melting and differentiation take place. These processes can be dated with the U/Pb, 87Rb/87Sr, 147Sm/143Nd and 176Lu/176Hf methods. Metallic core formation and cooling can be dated by applying the 187Re/187Os method to iron meteorites. Large scale impact events or even the destruction of the parent body can be dated using the 39Ar/40Ar method and the 244Pu fission track method. After breakup of the parent body meteoroids are exposed to cosmic radiation. The length of this exposure can be dated using the 3H/3He method, 22Na/21Ne, 81Kr/83Kr. After impact on earth (or any other planet with sufficient cosmic ray shielding) cosmogenic radionuclides decay and can be used to date the time since the meteorite fell. Methods to date this terrestrial exposure are 36Cl, 14C, 81Kr.
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