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CosmoELEMENTS

CosmoELEMENTS keeps us in touch with exciting discoveries in cosmochemistry and provides short articles that can be used in the classroom or report on the space missions carrying geochemical and mineralogical instruments.

Proposals for future articles are welcome and should be sent to the Elements Executive Editor, or to the Column Editor, Cari Corrigan, at corriganc@si.edu

Credit: NASA

OSIRIS-REX: The Journey to Asteroid Bennu and Back

By | June, 2017

In May 2011, NASA selected the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security–Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) asteroid sample return mission as the third of its New Frontiers program missions. The previous, yet ongoing, two New Frontiers missions are New Horizons—which explored Pluto during a flyby in July 2015 and is on its way for a flyby of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 on 1 January 2019—and Juno—an orbiting mission that is studying the origin, evolution, and internal structure of Jupiter. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departed for near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 evolved expendable launch vehicle at 7:05 p.m. eastern daylight time (EDT) on 8 September 2016 for a seven-year journey to return samples from Bennu. Bennu is an Earth-crossing asteroid that has an orbital semi-major axis of 1.1264 AU, which is greater than that of the Earth, but a perihelion distance of 0.89689 AU, less than the Earth’s aphelion distance.

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Carbonaceous Chondrite Impact Melts

By and | February, 2017

Collisions between planetary bodies (such as asteroids colliding with one another or with planets) have played a role in the geologic evolution of our Solar System since the formation of planetesimals, the earliest kilometer-scale bodies. Shock damage from collisional impacts leaves evidence on surviving planetary materials that range in scale from kilometer-sized craters to nanometer-sized mineral structural defects.

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Aqueous Alteration and Accretion of Chondrite Parent Bodies: When and Where

By and | October, 2016

Events such as the Shoemaker−Levy 9 comet impact into Jupiter (July 1994) and the Chelyabinsk meteorite impact in Russia (February 2013) are reminders of the dynamic processes that were part of the formation of our Solar System from a protosolar molecular cloud of interstellar and circumstellar dust and gas. High-temperature (up to 2000 K) transient heating events (e.g. shock waves, current sheets, lightning, etc.) resulted in thermal processing (evaporation, condensation, and melting) of the primordial molecular cloud matter. In general, however, the ambient temperature of the disk decreased radially from the proto-Sun. When temperatures fell below 160 K, water vapor condensed directly into water ice, forming a front known as the “snow line”. The snow line likely did not reside at a single location in the disk, but rather migrated as the luminosity of the proto-Sun, mass accretion rate, and disk opacity all evolved with time. Some models suggest that the snow line could be located at about 5 astronomical units (1 AU = average distance between Earth and the Sun) early in disk evolution, which is not far from Jupiter’s current orbit, but is likely to have been present at 2−3 AU when the disk was just 2−4 My old (Ciesla and Cuzzi 2005).

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NASA’s Cosmic Dust Program: Collecting Dust Since 1981

By | June, 2016

Cosmic dust refers to particles that originate from the interplanetary medium and that have a diameter of ~100 µm or smaller (Brownlee 1985). This material, also known as interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), can be collected directly from Earth’s atmosphere. NASA has collected particles in the stratosphere for nearly three decades.

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Qarabawi’s Charm: Looking Beyond the Science

By | February, 2016

If you have been reading CosmoELEMENTS over the last few years, you will have realized that much of our understanding of Solar System history, including its earliest events, is derived from the study of meteorites. Scientifically, they are exceptionally valuable samples and, as such, it is sometimes hard to take a step back and realize that some meteorites have a cultural and historical value that is even greater. Back before the cosmic origins of meteorites were accepted, it is understandable that any material that fell from the heavens was the subject of some debate; historically, meteoritic material was often viewed as especially rare and valuable, as a gift from the Gods, or even cursed.

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Archived CosmoElements (PDF)

2017201620152014201320122011

2017 Issues -- Volume 13

February 2017

Nicole G. Lunning and Catherine M. Corrigan

"Carbonaceous Chondrite Impact Melts"

 

2016 Issues -- Volume 12

February 2016

Rhiannon Mayne

"Qarabawi's Charm: Looking Beyond the Science"

June 2016

Michael Zolensky

"NASA's Cosmic Dust Program: Collecting Dust Since 1981"

October 2016

Patricia M. Doyle and Alexander N. Krot

"Aqueous Alteration and Accretion of Chondrite Parent Bodies: When and Where"

 

2015 Issues -- Volume 11

February 2015

James W. Ashley

"THE STUDY OF EXOGENIC ROCKS ON MARS—AN EVOLVING SUBDISCIPLINE IN METEORITICS?"

June 2015

Philip A. Bland, Gretchen K. Benedix, and the Desert Fireball Network (DFN) Team

"CATCHING A FALLING STAR (OR METEORITE) – FIREBALL CAMERA NETWORKS IN THE 21st CENTURY"

October 2015

Kelsi Singer

"MEET PLUTO AND CHARON … AND NIX AND HYDRA!"

 

2014 Issues -- Volume 10

February 2014

Larry R. Nittler

"NEAR-SHOEMAKER AT EROS: THE FIRST DETAILED EXPLORATION OF AN ASTEROID"

June 2014

Carl Agee

"BLACK BEAUTY: A UNIQUE 4.4 GA, WATER-RICH METEORITE FROM MARS"

October 2014

Gregory F. Herzog and Rainer Wieler

"COSMOGENIC NUCLIDES IN THE INNER SOLAR SYSTEM: SURFACE EXPOSURE AGES FOR MARS AND ASTEROID 25143 ITOKAWA "

 

2013 Issues -- Volume 9

April 2013

Shoshana Z. Weider and Larry R. Nittler

"THE SURFACE COMPOSITION OF MERCURY AS SEEN FROM MESSENGER"

June 2013

Linda Martel and Cari Corrigan

"THE CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA,
METEORITE FALL"

October 2013

Monica M. Grady

"NITROGEN IN PLANETARY MATERIALS"

 

2012 Issues -- Volume 8

February 2012

Cari Corrigan, Andrew Beck, and Tim McCoy

"MISSIONS TO ASTEROIDS: JOURNEYING TO THE BEGINNING OF OUR SOLAR SYSTEM"

June 2012

Steven B. Simon

"THE ENDURING LEGACY OF THE ALLENDE METEORITE"

October 2012

Donald E. Brownlee

"THE STARDUST COMET MISSION: STUDYING SEDIMENTS FROM THE SOLAR SYSTEM’S FROZEN ATTIC"

 

2011 Issues -- Volume 7

December 2009

Cari Corrigan

"ANTARCTICA: THE BEST PLACE ON EARTH TO COLLECT METEORITES"

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