Nuclear Astrophysics with a Carbonaceous Chondrite

Evgeny Ulanov, Noah Schneiders

project report

We have studied fragments of the Allende meteorite, which is part of the fairly rare class of carbonaceous chondrites, aiming to determine its crystalline structure and its chemical composition. In order to identify its origin, we measured the ratio of silicon isotopes 28Si and 29Si.

A thin section was prepared to determine the meteorite's crystalline structure, which looked grainy under a microscope in a way that resembles published microscope images.

We used nondestructive neutron activation analysis to determine the isotope ratio of 28Si and 29Si, i.e. we bombarded our fragment of the Allende meteorite with neutrons to trigger nuclear reactions of the elements/isotopes that make up the meteorite. The resulting radioactive decay of atomic nuclei under emission of γ-rays allows the isotopes to be identified.

We specifically studied the isotope ratio of 28Si and 29Si as solar and presolar silicon have different isotope ratios. We found that the silicon isotrope ratio was the same within experimental accuracy for the meteorite and our control experiment with terrestrial quartz, suggesting that the Allende meteorite is of solar origin.

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