Formation of the Solar System

Dr. Kathy Kitts
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences - Washington University

Once upon a time there was a Great Molecular Cloud. This molecular cloud was terribly cold and so, despite the fact that the cloud billowed up enormous columns of wispy gas, it was also made up of tiny frozen bits of rock, metal and ice. These bits came in different flavors because they were born in very different places in very different times. Some were born out of the sparks flying from the forge in the heart of a great star and were quite spicy. Some were the frozen whispers of a lesser celestial beast and would have been cool and soothing on the tongue. Still others were products of two things that went bump in the night and could be quite sour like unsweetened lemonade. And finally there were those that had been there since the dawn of time and had witnessed first light. These were slightly bitter like the darkest chocolate. One day the Great Molecular Cloud decided to bake a solar system. The Great Cloud mixed together all the very best in bits of rock and metal and ice with just the right amount of gas for leavening. The amazing thing was how well the Great Cloud mixed the batter. There was not a lump to be found so when the solar system was done and cooled, no matter where one nibbled, the taste was always the same. And it was good... -- or so a cosmochemistry textbook would say if it were written by a storyteller.

Dr. Kathy Kitts recently received her Ph.D in Cosmochemistry from the Earth and Planetary Department here at Washington University. She is currently a post doctoral student working for Dr. Frank Podosek. Her thesis research involved the determination of the Cr isotopic composition of the implanted solar wind-bearing component of Apollo 16 lunar soils. Among her many projects, she is extending her thesis work by examining other isotopic systems. Before returning to graduate school in the Earth and Planetary Science Department, she taught high school Science and French for ten years. During that time, she received a Masters in French from St. Louis University.

While pursuing her doctorate, she began teaching as an adjunct instructor for both the Earth and Planetary Science Department at Washington University and the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Missouri St. Louis. She has continued in this capacity as a post doc. However, she did not leave the public school arena entirely. Since 1995, she has also held the position of the Planetarium and Observatory Director for the Pattonville School District. (