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Ananlyzing the meteorite

Spectrometry -- links to QuickTime movie

August 7, 1996
Web posted at: 6:00 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Researchers at Stanford University demonstrated the process by which they look at the stuff inside meteorites.

CNN Interactive's 911K QuickTime movie shows first an animation of the process, then video of an actual test.

The animation illustrates the process as follows:

  1. An infrared laser strikes a small sample of the meteorite.
  2. Molecules on the sample surface vaporize and rise.
  3. An ultraviolet laser illuminates the expanding vapor cloud.
  4. Organic molecules are selectively ionized.
  5. An electric field accelerates the organic molecules toward a detector.
  6. The detector weighs the molecules by the łtime-to-impact˛ method, in which lighter (smaller) molecules strike first, revealing their identity.

The video portion of the movie shows the meteorite sample, the vacuum chamber used for the experiment, the sample being moved into position, the invisible laser beam hitting the sample, and the oscilloscope which shows the characteristics of each molecule.

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