NBIA Colloquium by Birger Schmitz: What can 50 tons of rock and 100,000 litres of hydrochloric acid tell us? – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

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Niels Bohr Institute > Calendar > NBI Calendar 2014 > NBIA Colloquium by Bir...

NBIA Colloquium by Birger Schmitz: What can 50 tons of rock and 100,000 litres of hydrochloric acid tell us?

An astronomical perspective on Earth's geological record and evolution of life - What can 50 tons of rock and 100,000 litres of hydrochloric acid tell us?

Birger Schmitz

(Lund University)

With the discovery that an asteroid impact caused the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago there has been a growing awareness that astronomical information can be gained also by looking down at Earth, rather than up at the sky. For twenty years we have pursued a systematic search for meteorites that fell on the sea floor in the Ordovician period 470 million years ago. The search is pursued together with quarry workers who cut the lithified, ancient sea-floor sediments into floor plates. So far 100 meteorites have been found, representing almost all fossil meteorites known to science. The study gives the first insight into the meteorite flux to Earth at another time than the present. 470 million years ago one of the largest break-up events in the asteroid belt occurred, and this is reflected in the assemblage of fossil meteorites. Simultaneously with the asteroid breakup one of the most important events occurred in the history of life, the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, suggesting a possible relation. We have also developed an approach where relict meteoritic grains can be recovered from sedimentary rock of most ages in Earth's history. It will thus become possible to establish a detailed history of variations in the meteorite flux to Earth and to relate, with very high resolution, geological events to astronomical events.

Birger Schmitz received his Ph. D. from Stockholm University in 1988.  He subsequently held a postdoctoral position at Berkeley with Luis Alvarez.  Following positions at the University of Gothenburg, he has been Professor of Geology at Lund University since 2004.  He has received numerous honors for his work, including an ERC  Advanced Grant in 2011.

Refreshments will be available in the NBIA lounge after the talk.