Christmas Meeting

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David C Rayment

I would also like to add my thanks to the team who put together the streaming of the Christmas Lecture.  Having missed the last few due to rail engineering works and then SARs-Cov 2, it was a pleasure to have been able to watch this event live on-line.

As a supporting member of the Natural History Museum (BM) I feel privileged to have twice had the opportunity to join a small group visiting the behind-the-scenes work area at the NHM where the meteorite collection is kept.  On both occasions we were shown specimens by Dr Caroline Smith who was excellent in her explanations of these different types of visitors from outer space.

Professor Sara Russell’s mention of the analysis of meteorites through the electron scanning microscope and the x-ray by-product from firing the electrons reminded me of another visit to the NHM where the group on that occasion was able to handle one of the solar panels from Hubble which was brought back to earth by the space shuttle.  These panels, which are basically as thin as crisp or peanut wrappers, have small impact holes. The scientist fire the electrons at the impact holes which reveal the structure of those holes and from the x-ray by-product the scientist are able to tell if the impact material was natural or man-made.  If the impact material was man-made it was likely to be rocket fuel and through the spectral analysis they could determine if it came from an American or Russian rocket due to the different chemical compositions of the fuel used.  I forget the exact ratio of man-made material to natural material but, if memory serves me correct, it was around forty five percent to fifty five percent.  My understanding is that rocket fuel is less of a problem nowadays due to most satellites being placed in geostationary orbits.

The talk by Professor Heymans was excellent and interesting Sky Notes as always.

Many thanks,

David C Rayment.