News archive

Meteorites and impact craters

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The 23rd Colloquium of African Geology (CAG23) will meet in South Africa at the University of Johannesburg, from the 8th to the 14th of January 2011. The Meteoritical Society is co-sponsoring a session (S3.7) on African Meteorites and Impact Craters to be co-chaired by Profs. H. Chennaoui (Casablanca, and C. Koeberl (Vienna,

The Meteoritical Society will offer partial support for attendance by students and third-world country scientists to attend. For further information, please contact C. Koeberl.

More info: CAG23

Frank Stadermann, 1962-2010

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Frank J. Stadermann, PhD, senior research scientist in physics, member of the Laboratory for Space Sciences, and director of the NanoSIMS and Scanning Auger Nanoprobe laboratories at Washington University in St. Louis, died on Oct. 4, 2010. He was 48.

Born in Germany, Stadermann earned a master's degree in physics from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, for his work on 40Ar-39Ar dating of lunar rocks from the Fra Mauro region. In 1988, as part of his Ph.D. studies at the University of Heidelberg, he began a two-year research visit to Washington University, where he used secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) to carry out isotopic and trace element analyses of interplanetary dust particles (IDPs). His Ph.D. dissertation included the discovery of widespread nitrogen isotopic variations in IDPs.

After his return to Heidelberg, Stadermann held a postdoctoral appointment in the Cosmochemistry Department of the Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik where he studied the sources of micrometeoroids striking satellite surfaces. He continued this line of research after transferring to the Darmstadt University of Technology, where he was in charge of establishing a new SIMS laboratory. During this period, he studied the use of the electron microprobe and SIMS for particle analysis, and worked on the development and application of two- and three-dimensional SIMS imaging techniques for material and space science applications.

Stadermann re-joined Washington University in 1996, initially to participate in development, fund-raising, and the eventual purchase of the very first commercial NanoSIMS, a newly designed high-resolution and high-sensitivity type of ion microprobe. He went on to develop techniques for NanoSIMS measurements in TEM sections, which allowed correlated mineralogical and isotopic studies on a submicrometer scale. This work led to the isotopic analysis of "presolar grains within presolar grains", i.e., of 200-nanometer titanium carbide crystals embedded in low-density supernova graphite spheres. He also discovered presolar corundum and silicon carbide grains in IDPs. The study of cometary particles was an important focus of his research. He served as a sample analysis advisor for the Stardust mission to Comet Wild-2. His analyses during the preliminary examination of dust particles returned by the Stardust space probe led to the discovery of presolar grains among the returned cometary samples.

Stadermann's colleagues describe his delight in research and the application of new technologies to scientific investigation; his brilliance and mastery of even the most temperamental instruments; and his cheerful nature and positive outlook, which were always a boost to the spirit. Tom Bernatowicz says that he never uttered an angry word in all his years at the university, always seeking to use patience, humor and reason to undermine conflict and promote harmony. He was a true friend and beloved colleague.

Frank Stadermann is survived by his wife and long-time scientific collaborator, Christine Floss, a research associate professor of physics at Washington University, and their daughter, and two step-daughters.


The text above quotes material that appeared in the Washington University (St. Louis) Record and in an e-mail from Stephen Mackwell (Lunar and Planetary Institute), with additional comments from Ernst Zinner, Jeff Grossman, and Ed Scott.

Gregory Herzog
Piscataway, NJ
19 October 2010


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The First Arab Impact Cratering and Astrogeology Conference took place in Amman, Jordan, 9-11 November 2009. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss impact cratering in the Arab world and to encourage exchange between Arab geoscientists and planetologists and other researchers already studying the subject. The 48 participants who came from 22 countries agreed on a set of six recommendations concerning future research. W. U. Reimold has written an appreciation of the conference, which includes a photograph of the macro-deformation of the central uplift of the Jebel Waqf as Suwwan impact structure.

More info: Meteoritics & Planetary Science45, Nr 2, 157-160

Gero Kurat, 1938-2009

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Gero Kurat, the former head of the Mineralogical-Petrographical Department and curator of the meteorite collection at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria, died on November 27, 2009, at the age of 71. Gero was a pioneer in meteorite research, a gifted mineralogist, petrologist, and geochemist. He was among the first meteorite researchers to combine petrographic observations of meteorite textures with quantitative electron microprobe analyses. But he also made important contributions to the chemistry and mineralogy of lunar and terrestrial rocks. In 2001 and 2002 Gero Kurat was president of the Meteoritical Society.

Gero Kurat was born on November 18, 1938, in Klagenfurt, Austria. He studied petrology at the University of Vienna, where he received his PhD in 1963. In 1962, Gero entered the Natural History Museum, Vienna (NHMV) as a volunteer and was appointed custodian at the Mineralogical-Petrographical Department in 1963. From 1968 until his retirement in 2003, he was head of the Mineralogical-Petrographical Department and curator of the meteorite collection of the NHMV. During his directorship the department evolved from a historical institution to a world-wide known research institution focusing on meteorite research and competing with foreign universities and research institutions. Despite chronic financial shortages, Gero managed to expand the collections with innovative funding arrangements, and also acquire the necessary research equipment that allowed him and his staff to participate in international research programs, such as the study of lunar rocks.

Gero Kurat also realized early on that he had to go abroad to learn the newest developments in the research of extraterrestrial materials. In 1966, he spent three months at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., to work on meteorites. After returning from the USA, Gero wrote a remarkable set of papers on chondrules and matrix of chondritic meteorites. During this time he encountered strange inclusions with Ca,Al-rich minerals almost free of iron in the Lancé meteorite. Mireille Christophe Michel-Levy from Paris and Gero Kurat were the first to study these remarkable objects in meteorites. The debate about their origin, either by condensation or evaporation, is still ongoing.

In 1970/1971 Gero Kurat took leave of absence from the Museum to study the mineralogy and petrology of meteorites and lunar rocks with Klaus Keil at the Institute of Meteoritics in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In addition, Gero wanted to learn the use of the electron microprobe, in preparation for his eventual purchase of such an instrument in Vienna.

After his return from the US, Gero began to study upper mantle rocks from the Earth, such as peridotites from Zabargad island and spinel-lherozlitic xenoliths from volcanics in Kapfenstein, southern Austria, and other areas. To complement his mineralogical analyses with bulk chemical analyses, Gero began to cooperate with the cosmochemistry department at the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry in Mainz. This was a long and fruitful cooperation that resulted in many papers on meteorites and upper mantle rocks. In 1976, he received his venia legendi, allowing him to teach and supervise graduate students at the University of Vienna. In 1977, he was a visiting professor at the University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In the 1980s, Gero started an intense collaboration with Michel Maurette in France on the study of micrometeorites from Greenland and Antarctica, which led to many well-referenced publications. Throughout all these decades, Gero extensively used the ion microprobes in Mainz, Nancy, and St. Louis for the study of micrometeorites and meteorite inclusions.

In 1989, he was named adjunct professor at the University of Vienna the same year that the Meteoritical Society meeting was held in Vienna, with Gero's active support as a co-organizer. In 1992, Gero was named honorary member of the Russian Mineralogical Society, and he was elected to the Austrian Academy of Sciences as a corresponding member in 1993 and as a full member in 1995. From 1999, he was also active with the ESA STONE experiments, in which satellite heat shields contained mineralogical samples to create the very first "artificial meteorite" experiments in space. More recently, Gero's scientific ideas shifted away from what he called mainstream thinking. His unconventional models for the formation of iron meteorites and eucrites found little acceptance in the community, which does not necessarily invalidate them. Only time will tell.

With Gero Kurat the Society lost not only a dedicated scientist who served it in many different functions (e.g., as President), but also one of their best petrographers, and an unusually active and devoted scientist with a warm and pleasant personality, who was always ready for a joke and a good glass of wine. He will be missed by his many friends from all around the world which he left far too soon.

Franz Brandstätter, Vienna;
Christian Koeberl, Vienna;
Herbert Palme, Frankfurt

Nominations for 2011-12 Council

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It is time for the Members of the Meteoritical Society to select a new Council to serve from January 2011 to December 2012 when Ed Scott will be President. A Nominating Committee was appointed this year to propose a slate of Officers and Councilors: Adrian Brearley (chair), Sara Russell, Tom Burbine, Tomoki Nakamura, Dieter Stöffler, and Christine Floss. Their nominees are:

Vice President: Monica Grady, UK 
Secretary: Greg Herzog, U.S., 1st term
Treasurer: Rhian Jones, U.S., 1st term
Councilors: Nancy Chabot, U.S., 1st term
 Hasnaa Chennaoui, Morocco, 1st term
 Luigi Folco, Italy, 1st term
 Kevin Righter, U.S., 1st term
 Gretchen Benedix, U.K., 2nd term
 Harold Connolly, U.S., 2nd term
 Alex Deutsch, Germany, 2nd term
 Keiji Misawa, Japan, 2nd term

Brief biographies for the candidates and a statement from Monica Grady are provided below.

According to the Society's Constitution, which is available on the Society website listed on the left, nominations for other candidates require a petition signed by at least 3% of the Society's members (~30 members), which should be submitted to me by February 15, 2010. If no further nominations are received, the candidates listed above will be declared elected.

Jeff Grossman, Secretary, November 7, 2009

Biographical notes for Nominees for the 2011-12 Council
  • Gretchen Benedix is a researcher in the Meteorites Division of the Department of Mineralogy at the Natural History Museum in London. Her research focuses on the petrology and geochemistry of meteorites to understand planet formation.
  • Nancy Chabot is a staff scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. Her research is directed towards understanding the evolution of planetary bodies in the solar system, with a focus on experimental studies, iron meteorites, and planetary cores.
  • Hasnaa Chennaoui Aoudjehane is professor at the Hassan II University in Casablanca, Morocco. Her research interest focuses on the history and intensity of shock on meteorites by using cathodoluminescence techniques. She is currently member of the Nomenclature Committee and the Membership Committee of the Meteoritical Society.
  • Harold Connolly is a professor of earth and planetary sciences in the Department of Physical Sciences, Kingsborough Community College of CUNY, graduate faculty in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Graduate Center of CUNY, adjunct associate professor of planetary sciences at the LPL, University of Arizona, and a research associate at the AMNH. His research focuses on constraining the origins and evolution of primitive planetary materials through combining petrologic investigations with astrophysical modeling.
  • Alex Deutsch is a professor at the Institute for Planetology, University of Münster. His research interests focus on various aspects of impact processes, ranging from isotope geology and shock experiments to the petrology of impactites.
  • Luigi Folco is Curator of the meteorite collection of the Museo Nazionale dell'Antartide, Siena University. His current research focuses on the petrology of meteorites, micrometeorites and microtektites, as well as the search for meteorites in hot and cold deserts. He is past member of the Nomenclature Committee of the Meteoritical Society and Associate Editor of the Meteoritical Bulletin.
  • Monica Grady is Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University in Milton Keynes. Her research interests are in the fields of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope geochemistry of primitive meteorites and of Martian meteorites, interstellar components in meteorites, micrometeorites, and also in astrobiology and the possibilities of life elsewhere in the cosmos.
  • Gregory Herzog is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University in Piscataway New Jersey. His research focuses on cosmic-ray irradiation of extraterrestrial materials.
  • Rhian Jones is an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico. Her research is directed toward understanding the early history of the solar system through petrological and isotopic studies of chondritic meteorites.
  • Keiji Misawa is an associate professor at the Antarctic Meteorite Research Center, National Institute of Polar Research, Japan. His research focuses on isotopic signatures of differentiated meteorites, including Martian and Moon rocks, to understand evolutional histories of inner planets.
  • Kevin Righter is a research scientist and curator of the Antarctic meteorite collection at NASA Johnson Space Center. His research efforts include applying experimental petrology and geochemical analysis to understanding core formation in terrestrial planets, the origin of the Earth and Moon, and the role of water, oxygen, sulfur, and carbon on magmatic properties and phase equilibria.

Statement from Monica Grady:

My biography is a bald statement of who I am and what I do. It does not give any flavour of what I have been doing in the thirty years (no, it can't really be thirty years since I started in meteoritics, can it?) I have been studying extraterrestrial materials. I started out as a stable isotope geochemist, analysing carbon in meteorites. I progressed from burning bits of grey powder to examining thin sections of meteorites when I moved in 1991 from the Open University to the Natural History Museum. I worked for many years under the guidance of Dr Bob Hutchison, who taught me how to recognize chondrules (but not necessarily how they formed). On Bob's retirement in 1997, I succeeded him as leader of the meteorite research team at the Museum. One of my main projects there was to edit the 5th edition of the Catalogue of Meteorites, which was produced in 2000. I suspect that this might be the last printed edition of the work, as it has been (quite rightly) superseded by electronic databases (especially the Meteoritical Bulletin Database) that can be updated far more rapidly and efficiently. I returned to the OU in 2005, where I dabble my fingers in lots of pies. I have some expertise in infra red and optical microspectroscopy, and have worked with astronomers in order to make connections between dust observed around stars with that analysed in the laboratory. I'm currently working with a team of Norwegian scientists to develop a miniature combined infra red spectrometer and microscope, for deployment on the surface of Mars or an asteroid. I have led major research programmes studying meteorites; currently, my main work is in trying to understand the history of carbon and water on Mars, and interactions between surface, atmosphere and hydro(cryo)sphere through investigation of minor components in Martian meteorites.

I joined the Meteoritical Society in 1979, and served as Councillor from 1989 to 1992, and as Secretary from 1992 to 1998. I was elected to Fellowship in 2000. I was an Associate Editor of Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta from 2002-2005. Asteroid (4731) is named Monicagrady for me, so I have a vested interest in furthering understanding of the minor bodies that are a significant part of our planetary system. I am firmly committed to public outreach and education opportunities, and believe that the activities of the Meteoritical Society can play an important role in inspiring young people to become the next generation of scientists, technologists and engineers.

In the next few years, the Meteoritical Society will be facing some interesting challenges. One of those is the shift in publications from paper-based to electronic media. Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences is a highly-regarded journal, and its publication is probably the most high profile action of the Society. Switching publisher to Wiley-Blackwell will help us advance with the next wave of changes in the publishing industry - and I will be taking careful note that the interests of members of the Society are not lost when we become part of a bigger publishing consortium.

Another challenge that the Society continues to face is the collection of meteorites from desert locations, where unregulated trade in specimens can not only confuse the issue of a specimen's provenance, but also removes a valuable natural scientific and educational resource from its recovery site. This trade has greatly benefitted meteoriticists, especially in the provision of rare and unusual specimens for study. But we must be aware that the countries from which desert meteorites are currently collected are the owners of the specimens. I would like to see the Meteoritical Society helping to build and develop meteorite expertise within these countries, such that they too can benefit (possibly financially, certainly educationally) from the stones that have fallen from the sky to their land.

I am deeply honoured to be nominated as Vice-President of the Meteoritical Society, and if elected, I will serve the Society, further its aims and uphold its principles to the best of my ability.