Astronomy by Microscope

06 March 2023 19:00 - 20:00 The Royal Society Free Watch online

Join us for the Michael Faraday Prize Lecture given by 2022 winner Professor Monica M Grady.

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Traditionally, astronomers study stars and planets by telescope. However, we can also learn about them by using a microscope, through studying meteorites.  

Meteorites are fragments of ancient material, natural objects that survive their fall to Earth from space. Some are metallic, but most are made of stone. They are the oldest objects that we have for study. Almost all meteorites are fragments from asteroids, and were formed at the birth of the Solar System, approximately 4567 million years ago. They show a compositional variation that spans a whole range of planetary materials, from completely unmelted and unfractionated stony chondrites to highly fractionated and differentiated iron meteorites. Meteorites, and components within them, carry records of all stages of Solar System history. From meteorites, we can learn about the processes and materials that shaped the Solar System and our planet. Tiny grains within meteorites have come from other stars, giving information about the stellar neighbourhood in which the Sun was born. Some meteorites contain organic compounds – materials which might have helped life on Earth to get started. There are also meteorites from the Moon and from Mars that give us insights to how these bodies have formed and evolved.

In her lecture, Monica will describe how the microscope is another tool that can be employed to trace stellar and planetary processes. 

Professor Monica M Grady CBE was awarded the 2022 prize for her significant contributions to the field of planetary science, and her dedication and enthusiasm for public engagement, particularly in raising the profile of STEM subjects for young women. 

The Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture is awarded annually to the scientist or engineer whose expertise in communicating scientific ideas in lay terms is exemplary. The award is named after Michael Faraday FRS, the influential inventor and electrical pioneer who was prominent in the public communication of science and founded the Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution.

Attending the event

  • The event is free to join and there is no registration required
  • Live subtitles will be available in-person and virtually

Attending in person

Attending live online

  • The lecture will also be livestreamed here and on the Royal Society YouTube channel
  • You can take part in the live Q&A (details to follow)
  • This event will be recorded (including the live Q&A) and the recording will be available on YouTube soon after the event 

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