How did Earth form? What was the composition of the starting material that made Earth, and how does its composition today differ from that starting material? How is Earth similar to or different from other planets in our Solar System, and how do we explain those similarities or differences?
Earth, our home planet, is a great starting to point to answer questions like these. But Earth is an active planet, we have earthquakes, volcanoes, weather, etc., and the geological record from when it first formed 4.5 billion years ago has been overwritten. To properly answer these questions, and fully understand our Earth and its role in our Solar System, we need to look beyond Earth itself. The Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry Group at The University of Manchester study the history and formation of our Solar System to address questions like these. In our laboratories we analyse terrestrial rocks, as well as extra-terrestrial material from the Moon, Mars and asteroids to improve our understanding of the chemical and physical make-up and evolution of Earth and other bodies in the Solar System. We have worked on every sample return mission to date, including samples from the Apollo and Luna mission that returned material from the surface of the Moon, NASA’s Genesis mission that collected samples of the solar wind, NASA’s Stardust mission that collected material from Comet Wild2, and JAXA’s Hayabusa mission that returned material from asteroid Itokawa. Group members are involved with expeditions to places like Antarctica and Chile to recover new meteorites, and researchers in the group led the first UK-led meteorite recovery mission to Antarctica.
Part of our research also includes the continual development of analytical techniques, and the instruments we use to analyse the samples are among the most advanced available to Earth and Planetary scientists. Some of our instruments are unique, and were developed in-house specifically designed to analyse the tiny amounts of extra-terrestrial material available.
For more information about the Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry Group please visit our page on the University website. To keep up to date with our research and the latest developments in Earth and Planetary Science please visit our Earth and Solar System blog, and follow Earth and Solar System on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.