The Planetary Sciences group at Freie Universität Berlin is involved in several upcoming space missions with mass spectrometers, including NASA's Europa Clipper mission, ESA's Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE) mission and the JAXA/DLR Destiny Plus mission to the active and potentially dangerous asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
Asteroids are the source of most meteorites found on Earth, but so far it has not been possible to identify remotely the specific parent bodies of all meteorite types discovered. It has been theorised that, by sampling a large enough proportion of the dust halo around an asteroid, the mineralogical composition of the asteroid can be determined accurately enough to potentially identify its corresponding meteorite type, should such an example be already known. This process can be undertaken by the flyby of a spacecraft carrying an impact ionisation mass spectrometer, an instrument which measures the composition of cosmic dust grains when encountered by spacecraft at very high speeds.
To prove this technique is possible at realistic asteroid flyby speeds, the successful applicant will locate and characterise suitable meteorite samples, before milling them to produce micron and submicron powder samples for conductive coating and accelerating onto impact ionisation mass spectrometers. Organic compounds may be extracted and investigated through laser induced liquid bead ion desorption mass spectrometry, and new techniques for electroless metal deposition developed. The resulting spectra ensembles will be analysed and characterised to determine suitable methods for discriminating between meteorite types and hence asteroids themselves.
It is expected that this project will lead to the production of a doctoral thesis.
Completed scientific university studies (Master's degree or equivalent in chemistry, geology or mineralogy)
Existing knowledge of meteoritics or planetary science
Experience with organic and inorganic chemistry
Experience with mineralogy/geology/geochemistry
Experience with analytical chemistry and/or minerology (spectrometry, microscopy, sample preparation)
Familiarity with statistical analysis and programming (e.g. R, Matlab, IDL or python)
As the results of this work will be published in internationally-recognised scientific journals, a high standard of English will be advantageous.
Applications should be sent by e-mail, together with significant documents, indicating the reference code, in PDF format (preferably as one document) to Herrn Dr. Jon Hillier: email@example.com or postal to
Freie Universität Berlin
Institut für Geologische Wissenschaften
FR Planetologie und Fernerkundung
Herrn Dr. Jon Hillier
Haus D, 12249 Berlin (Lankwitz)
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