Antarctic Meteorite Sample Collection and Curation
Initial Characterization of Samples
Samples are kept frozen until they are ready for initial characterization and classification, upon which they are thawed in a cleanroom nitrogen cabinet (or glovebox). Initial characterization at JSC includes weighing, photographing, and macroscopic description of interior and exterior. Samples are then prepared to send to the Smithsonian either as a thin section or a chip. The minimum amount of information is obtained to make a reasonable classification of each meteorite. For example, oxygen isotopic measurements are only done in cases where the curators are truly stumped, or where the data can help distinguish between multiple possibilities. Subsequently, oxygen isotope analysis is rare and is only done on a handful of samples each year. Similarly, only the minimum electron microprobe data are collected; the philosophy is that the samples will be characterized enough so that the community can recognize samples of importance or relevance to their research interests.