It was exciting to watch O-REX gather a sample from asteroid Bennu. One way OREX will determine how much sample was collected is by spinning the spacecraft and calculating the change in its moment of inertia before and after collection — a great basic physics experiment that I use as an example in my introductory physics class. The PI of OREX, Dr. Lauretta, got his Ph.D. at Wash U working with Dr. Fegley in EPS!

Acfer 182

Backscattered electron mosaic of the CH3 chondrite Acfer 182. This is a big one: ~160 gigapixels.

Water on Earth and Enstatite Chondrites

Lionel is a co-author on this interesting new paper in Science on the origin of Earth’s water. Enstatite chondrites were previously thought to be a building block of Earth because they match in various isotopes systems, most importantly oxygen. This work shows that the ECs can also bring plenty of water to Earth, and EC water has a deuterium abundance that matches Earth’s primordial water composition. Fascinating work that leads to lots more questions!

Katharina wins the 2021 Leonard Medal

The Leonard Medal from the Meteoritical Society, the top prize in our field for contributions to meteoritics, was awarded to Wash U’s Katharina Lodders for 2021. It’s hard to overstate Katharina’s contributions to cosmochemistry. Her papers on the Solar System abundances are the most cited works in our field. Though her official affiliation is with Earth & Planetary Science, I consider her a part of our department too as she’s been a long-time collaborator with us and other research groups in physics. I’ve benefited personally from Katharina’s enormous expertise across planetary science and astrophysics — she is always willing to talk and guide me in the right direction on a new research question.

With both the Leonard Medal and Nier Prize for 2021, by Katharina and Nan, Wash U is clearly a world-leading institution in meteoritics and cosmochemistry.

Nan wins 2021 Nier Prize

Congratulations to Nan! The Nier Prize is awarded to outstanding research in meteoritics and closely allied fields by scientists under the age of 35. Nan is much deserving of this award for her contributions to the study of presolar grains. We’re all very proud of her!

Tagish Lake

We’ve added a zoomable backscattered electron mosaic of Tagish Lake (unstitched, I’ll do that later). It is interesting to compare Tagish Lake to say, Murchison. TL is very fine-grained. Or maybe less compacted is a better way to describe it (thanks Lionel!).


Asteroid 4 Vesta (right) and a colorized backscattered electron image of the Kapoeta meteorite (left), a howardite thought to originate from Vesta’s surface. The difference in scale between these two images is 100 million.