Meet the Cosmochemists

Looking at "pretty colours", aka thin sections of meteorites, down a microscope

On Saturday we were at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) again, offering visitors a chance to Meet The Cosmochemists.

MOSI’s Meet The Scientist takes place once a month (usually on the first Saturday). Each month a different group of scientists and engineers runs demonstrations and interactive activities for all the family.

We provided a range of things do so that all ages could have fun and learn something about cosmochemistry. Younger visitors (or those who just wanted to sit down for a while!) were kept busy naming and colouring the planets, along with trying to solve space-themed word searches, dot-to-dots and mazes. Large samples of meteorites were available for visitors to examine so they could learn about the different materials we find in meteorites. These different components tell us how our solar system has evolved over the last 4.5 billion years ago to the present day.

We also had some samples that could be viewed through a microscope. People were fascinated by the pretty colours they saw and we had many incorrect, but interesting and imaginative guesses as to what they might be looking at, ranging from butterflies to stained glass windows. One girl appeared disappointed that they were not fossilised dinosaur poo! But she was soon excited again when she learnt what it really was she was looking at – very thin slices (thin sections) of meteorites! When these are viewed using crossed polarised light the different minerals produce lots of different colours. This is a very useful tool used by geologists to study the mineral composition of both meteorites and terrestrial rocks (plus they look pretty!).

A large group of local Beaver Scouts were also visiting MOSI on Saturday, and at times we were inundated with 7-8 year old boys all scrabbling to look down the microscope, which all added to the fun of the day!

Racing to finish the space-themed word search

Looking at meteorites

About Sarah Crowther

I'm a Post Doc in the Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry group. I study xenon isotope ratios using the RELAX mass spectrometer, to try to learn more about the origins and evolution of our solar system. I look at a wide range of samples from solar wind returned by NASA's Genesis mission to zircons (some of the oldest known terrestrial rocks), from meteorites to presolar grains.
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2 Responses to Meet the Cosmochemists

  1. John says:

    What a fun event to occure once a month! nice going.

    • Sarah Crowther says:

      Yes it is a fun event. Not only is it interesting for visitors to the museum, who get to learn about something different every month, its also a great experience for us to take our work out of the lab and show people what we do.
      Thanks to the staff at MOSI for their hard work organising this every month.

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