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MSRAL 2006 Convention

SLAS Regular Meeting
Friday, June 15, 2012
McDonnell Hall
Washington University

Where Do We Come From?
Our Stellar Roots


Dr. Ernst Zinner
Washington University

      The search for our ultimate ancestors leads us to the stars. We are, literally, stardust. Most of the atoms in our bodies were made by nuclear reactions in ancient stars. Two types of stars mostly contribute material to the interstellar medium: exploding stars called supernovae and dying red giant stars. Much of their material is recycled in huge clouds of dust and gas – the building blocks of new stars. But how do stars manufacture the range of elements needed for life? Dr. Zinner will explain how part of the answer to that question may be found within tiny grains of stardust locked away in primitive meteorites. Their precise composition, like a cosmic DNA tracer, reveals the nature of their stellar parents. It also allows scientists to figure out how the stars manufacture complex atoms from primitive material. Dr. Zinner will describe how these meteorites are studied in detail in the laboratory and present recent results of his own work.
      Dr. Ernst Zinner is a Research Professor of Physics and of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and a member of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, at Washington University. He studies primitive meteorites and what they tell us about the origin of the solar system and the early history of the Earth. He uses advanced instruments such as the ion microprobe to discover the detailed chemical composition of meteorites and space dust.

Astro 101

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