Our Earth is constantly battered by tiny pieces of space rock. Most of them burn up in the atmosphere, and these are called meteors. But when these chunks of rock reach the ground, we call them meteorites. Thousands of meteorites hit the surface of the planet each year, often falling harmlessly into the ocean. Understanding more about how meteorites affect our planet is not only important for Earth science, but for modeling the formation and evolution of planets across our solar system.
Washington State University Senior Scientist Stefan Turneaure — used the incredibly bright X-ray beams of the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility at the DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, to not only figure out more about how this planet and others may be affected by meteorites, but to begin to settle a decades-old dispute about the way quartz transforms under pressure.
It’s that combination of capabilities that makes DCS a “wonderful playground for knowledge,” in the words of Yogendra Gupta, professor at Washington State University and director of the Institute for Shock Physics. DCS is managed and operated by Washington State, and Gupta said its ability to both create shock impacts in materials and take vivid X-ray images of the effects sets it apart.
“DCS allows us to look at the atomic level using a variety of dynamic compression platforms,” he said. “This has not been possible before.”