Heather Watson, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, has been awarded a $292,000 “Research Opportunity in Space and Earth Sciences- Emerging Worlds Program” grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for her project “Diffusion in Iron-Nickel Alloys and Sulfides: Constraints on Segregation and Crystallization of Early Planetary Cores.”
The segregation of a planet into a mantle and core is one of the most important and fundamental global processes, and can contribute to planet-wide attributes such developing and sustaining a magnetic field which is a criterion for habitability. Iron meteorites are considered to be remnant cores of early proto-planets. Our picture of the earliest days of the Solar System depends crucially on accurate and precise dating of these objects that have survived since the beginning.
This project aims to place important constraints on the information we get from measuring radiometric ages of meteorites. In particular, we aim to constrain both the temperature and time at which the radiometric age signatures were emplaced by conducting experiments on meteoritic materials at the high temperatures and pressures characteristic of early planet formation. These experimental products will be analyzed at the Union College Ion Beam Analysis Lab (UCIBAL) and at the Ion Beam Lab at the University at Albany. The experimental results will be used in conjunction with measured ages of meteorites to constrain models of the of the thermal histories of iron meteorite parent bodies.