Sample Collection and Curation

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Antarctic Meteorite Sample Collection and Curation

Collection at the Smithsonian Institution

a) Irons and Pallasites

Iron meteorites and pallasites are stored at the Smithsonian in the National Museum of Natural History. They are housed and maintained in dedicated auto—desiccators proximal to facilities uniquely equipped to cut and prepare irons and predominantly iron bearing samples.

b) Long–term Storage Facility

In the 1990s, storage space for Antarctic Meteorites at NASAJSC became full and guidelines for managing the long–term storage of meteorites at the Smithsonian were developed. Because scientific interest in EOC is lower than other groups, and because there are so many EOC (~90%) in the US Antarctic meteorite collection, procedures were developed to transfer such specimens to the Smithsonian Institution for permanent long–term storage. Currently, if an EOC specimen at JSC has not been requested or allocated for ~4 to 5 years, it is a candidate for transfer. However, a small percentage of meteorites from each icefield are kept at JSC for long–term storage.

Long-term storage of all meteorites at the Smithsonian (except irons and pallasites) is located at the Museum Support Center in Suitland, MD. Meteorites are stored in a class 10,000 cleanroom (completed in 2011) with 14 stainless steel nitrogen atmosphere glove–boxes. Meteorites are segregated into cabinets and pans by class. Samples, which are only removed for allocations, are enclosed in the same style and materials used at JSC. Sampling takes place on a cleanroom laminar flow bench. Tools, sample containers, and bags are made of stainless steel, aluminum, Teflon, or nylon. Polyvials are also used as sample containers — polystyrene vials with polyethylene lids.

Samples transferred to the Smithsonian become the property of the Institution and are not managed by or governed by NASA policies and procedures.

c) Thin Section Libraries SI

A library of thin sections of all non-EOC (and some EOC), including small ones with masses below 10 g, is maintained at the Smithsonian Institution. MWG does not in general advocate the loan of Smithsonian Institution (SI) library sections, in order to maintain one relatively complete library. However, in special cases, the SI library section may be loaned for a brief period (up to 2 weeks) by the SI curator with the consent of one other member of MWG.

d) Meteorite Powder Library

For many large meteorites collected during the early years of the ANSMET program, homogenized powders were prepared and archived at the Smithsonian. A full listing is reported in Jarosewich, E. (1990) Chemical analyses of meteorites — A compilation of stony and iron meteorite analyses. Meteoritics 25, 323-337.