Impact Day 2008

On Sunday I visited the Cambridge Astronomy Association for the Impact Day 2008, which was a free day of lectures about comets and meteorites.

As well as a full day of lectures there were also a number of stalls selling astronomy books, astronomy hardware and of course a number of meteorites. I was amazed to see the actual number of meteorites that you could purchase, which included rock from the Moon and from Mars.

There were lots of activities for children, including making model craters and the children also received their own iron meteorite for a small fee.

I attended three of the five talks during the day. The first one was by Dr Caroline Smith who was from the Natural History Museum in London, and she looks after nearly 2,000 meteorites in the national collection. We were told that there are over 35,000 meteorites found so far, and that 34,000 of these have come from the Antarctic. The desert of the Antarctic is a great place to find meteorites as they stand out so well in the snow and the dry conditions enhance the preservation of the meteorites, as in a normal country within 20,000 years a meteorite can breakdown and disappear.

We were also told that meteorites can give us the age of the solar system and details on the evolution of the solar system.

It was interesting to find out that stony meteorites are broken down into two groups; achondrites and chondrites. Achondrites have undergone melting whilst Chondrites have not. It was also mentioned that Calcium Aluminium Rich Inclusions (CAI) allow you to date the meteorite.

I also attended a talk entitled “Do you come here often? Dirty snowballs: Comets” by Jonathan Shanklin and a talk by Nik Szymanek, which unfortunately I had seen before, but it was worth sitting through it again, I can’t get bored of seeing Nik’s astrophotography images.

Overall it was a great day, and even better it was all free.

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