Antarctica is our most important source of meteorites. These extraterrestrial rocks have accumulated within glaciers over millions of years, and have been recovered in large numbers from ‘blue ice fields’, which are regions where meteorites are concentrated by the ablation of glacial ice. Most of the rocks recovered have been significantly altered by reaction with glacial meltwater and the Earth’s atmosphere. The resulting decay of primary minerals and precipitation of weathering products is detrimental to the scientific value of these meteorites. However, this project will turn this problem into a virtue by using weathering products to unlock the information that meteorites contain concerning environments on the ice sheets over long periods of time, including the climatic evolution of the Antarctic continent.
This project will focus on equilibrated ordinary chondrites. Using a suite of high-resolution electron and X-ray imaging and analysis techniques, the project will ask questions including: (i) Which factors intrinsic to the meteorites control the mechanisms and rates of their reaction with the Antarctic environment (e.g., crystal size, primary mineralogy, porosity and permeability)? (ii) Does the mineralogy of weathering products record present-day or past climates? (iii) Is there evidence for multiple phases of burial and exhumation of the meteorites? (iv) Does Antarctic weathering compromise the astrobiological significance of meteorites from Mars? The project student will work with a dynamic team of planetary scientists at Glasgow where they will gain skills in meteoritics, planetary science and environmental science. The student will also be encouraged to collaborate with the international research community and so will have the opportunity to travel widely in order to undertake research and present results at UK and international conferences.