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Student RAS Fellow grant recipient attends laboratory experience in the Minerals and Planetary Science Division at the Natural History Museum

My name is Darryl Cooper, I am a Fellow of the RAS and I am currently studying Astronomy and Planetary Science with The Open University. Earlier this year I was very fortunate to receive a grant from the RAS to participate in laboratory experience which had been offered to me by the Minerals and Planetary Science Division at the Natural History Museum, London, from the 16th ‒ 20th May 2016.

During the week I assisted Dr. Ashley King with several projects related to their meteorite research program. The experience I obtained included:-

- weighing out small aliquots of hydrated meteorite powders in their clean laboratory, some of which have since been sent to the department's collaborators at the Open University for oxygen isotope analysis. This is part of a project to understand the geochemical conditions of aqueous alteration on asteroids in the early solar system.

- thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) of hydrated and thermally metamorphosed meteorite powders. Dr. King is studying the mineralogy, H2O content and spectral characteristics of these meteorites as they are likely excellent analogues for materials collected by the Hayabusa-2 and OSIRIS-REx missions to primitive asteroids. I measured several samples with the TGA and processed the data.

- scanning electron microscope (SEM) analysis of primitive meteorites. Dr. King is searching for micron-sized Al-rich grains in the matrix of primitive meteorites in order to constrain the amount of radioactive 26Al available in the early solar system. To assist with this research I used a SEM to collect high resolution images of candidate grains.

- processing data from the museum's meteor camera. The camera is designed to detect meteors but it’s location in central London means that it also observes lots of "background noise". I searched through a week of recorded observations and positively identified several meteors.

Dr. King was kind enough to say that I helped to kick-start projects that had recently stalled due to other commitments and he felt that I had made a valuable contribution to the department's research efforts. I wish to thank Dr. King and the Natural History Museum for the experience and the Royal Astronomical Society for the grant, without which I would have been unable to attend and gain this invaluable experience.


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