March Meeting

This month meeting will be help at the usual place and time.  That is Wednesday 7th of March at Space Place/ Carter Observatory.  The meeting will include a talk on:

Did a supernova trigger the birth of the solar system? Clues from the micro-analysis of space rocks

Bruce Charlier in TIMS lab


Humanity has always been fascinated about how and when our solar system and Earth began their journeys. In addition to modern astronomical observations and models of star and planet formation, laboratory studies of the elemental and isotopic composition of early solar system materials can give us clues about the nature of the building blocks that were assembled into comets, asteroids and planets. Surviving remnants of these building blocks are meteorites. These contain records of the genesis of the chemical elements and their isotopes (nucleosynthesis) in the cloud of gas and dust known as the protosolar nebula that collapsed to form the solar system. In particular, the primitive meteorites – those types that have not seen significant degrees of heating or disturbance – retain their original aggregated nature and can yield valueable clues.

There are three main components in such meteorites: chondrules (quenched melt droplets), Calcium-Aluminium Inclusions (CAIs; aggregates of minerals condensed at very high temperatures) and matrix. Matrix and possibly CAIs also contain trace amounts of pre-solar grains (silicon carbide, graphite, oxides, and silicates). These grains all retain highly unusual chemcial and isotopic characteristics indicating that some formed around previous generations of stars before joining the presolar nebula, whilst others have compositions that can only be explained by production within a supernova.

In this talk, I will describe the wealth of information that can be gleaned from primitive meteorites and present data from new measurements of pre-solar grains that provide ‘smoking gun’ proof for a local supernova at the start of the solar system.


Bruce Charlier is an isotope geochemist, amateur astronomer and astrophotographer. He arrived in Wellington from the UK two years ago to take up a position as laboratory manager in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SGEES) at Victoria University. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day activities of the ultra-clean geochemistry laboratories and being responsible for four mass spectrometers, he is involved in a large and diverse range of geochemical projects in the SGEES labs, including carrying out his own research on meteorites.

Bruce obtained a BSc Hons from Brunel University in London, at which time he was introduced to isotope geochemistry as a summer student at Royal Holloway. He then moved to Milton Keynes and took up a PhD in uranium-series geochemistry at the Open University (OU) studying the timescales of magma generation beneath the caldera volcanoes of New Zealand’s Taupo volcanic zone – an area he has been actively researching since through various postdoc positions and a prestigious NERC Fellowship held at Durham University and OU.

In addition to working on some of the youngest rocks in the solar system, Bruce has applied novel techniques in isotope geochemistry to study some of the oldest rocks through the investigation of meteorites. This has enabled him to meld a long-held interest in amateur astronomy with cutting edge investigations of space rocks in the laboratory. He collaborates widely with colleagues internationally and has authored (and co-authored) numerous scientific papers on caldera volcanism on Earth, and on the processes involved in the formation of the early solar system.