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PhD in Geographical & Earth Sciences: Delivery of water to early Earth by carbonaceous meteorites

Project Description

This project asks whether the Earth’s hydrosphere could have come from outer space via water-rich meteorites. The focus of this work will be on analysing the abundance and hydrogen isotopic composition of water in Mighei-like (CM) carbonaceous chondrites. These rocks contain ~9% water, and come to Earth from outer parts of the asteroid belt. CM chondrites are particularly important as both NASA and the Japanese space agency have missions to collect and return samples of carbonaceous chondrite asteroids.

The CM chondrite’s water is contained mainly within phyllosilicate minerals, principally serpentine. However, not all CM carbonaceous chondrites contain the same amount of water, and this project focuses on those that have been heated prior to falling to Earth. This thermal processing is believed to have taken place within their parent asteroid, and was responsible for driving off much of original water. The nature and timing of this heating are both unknown, but are critical to understand in order to evaluate the potential flux of extraterrestrial water to Earth. The petrography, mineralogy and chemical composition of meteorite samples will be characterised by scanning electron microscopy, and their water content and hydrogen isotopic compositions will be measured by stepwise pyrolysis. Results will then be used to inform models of the early evolution of the Solar System.

Please contact the principal supervisor with any questions ().

Funding Notes

Funding may be available for the right Home/EU candidate through the College Graduate School Scholarship. The application deadline for this is 31 January 2019. Please note that you wish to be considered for this scholarship on your application form. This project is also open to applications from self-funded students.

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