Diary of Elite Scientists

The Story so Far...

It's been so exciting seeing Professor Monica Grady impart her knowledge of Meteorites to the Elite Scientists. On Tuesday 17th November, Professor Grady did a fantastic workshop on the spectra of different gases, such as Neon and Hydrogen. The students looked through special diffraction grating glasses to observe their spectra. Current was passed through the gas chamber, and the gases glowed a certain colour, which could then be observed using the special glasses, the camera lens had the diffraction grating in front of it, hence the rainbow patterns can be seen.

Photo: Professor Grady demonstrating the special glasses and rainbow patterns

The students were learning about the spectra (rainbow patterns), of different elements, that can be seen using the special diffraction grating glasses. The Elite Scientists will be analysing photos of meteors taken on their trips out, using a computer programme called IRIS where they will deduce the composition of the meteorite dust grains.

Photo: Professor Grady's workshop

November 25th saw Professor Grady show meteorite slices from the Moon, Mars, and possibly the Asteroid Belt. They were seen under the microscope using special polarising lenses, which enabled the samples to glisten in colour. It was an amazing experience for all the students to have a 1:1 tutorial on such matters with Professor Grady. As well as this, Professor Grady showed a virtual flame test, available on the Open University website, to show the students, what colour the different metals go when heated. If the coloured flames are then observed through the special diffraction grating glasses, each metal would have its own spectra (or rainbow pattern). The workshop also saw Ms Hudson, Mr Smith and Mr Miall come to look at the irresistible samples that had travelled a very long way to be on that stage. When Ms Hudson was asked by Professor Grady "Would you like to see meteorite samples from Mars?" Ms Hudson replied "I really would."

Photo: Professor Grady & Ms Hudson

December 9th saw the Elite Scientists interviewed and filmed as part of the case study to showcase The Royal Society Partnership Grant Scheme, on their website. This was an exciting opportunity for William Perkin to feature the work they are doing, and will continue to do with Professor Monica Grady. The students will be making comets using dry ice and earth, and looking at the spectra (rainbow patterns) of different metals through spectroscopes (which have a diffraction grating to look through).

December 14th saw the Elite Scientists observing the Geminids Meteor Shower. They will be collecting data on their speed, trajectory, and origin. Alongside this data, continuous photos will be taken of the meteor showers to record their spectra using a special diffraction filter at the end of a wide angle camera lens, and thus deduce their metal content, in conjunction with a special computer programme they will use back at school. On Tuesday 2nd February the students will relay their research in the format of a lecture and poster at the first Royal Society Conference, so that they get to see how real scientists work. Here’s hoping and praying for clear skies!

January 13th saw Professor Monica Grady, who has worked with NASA and the European Space Agency, gave children at William Perkin School a lesson in meteorites and terrestrial rock. The visit was reported on by GetWestLondon.co.uk and the full article, with pictures, can be read here: http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/incoming/leading-nasa-space-scientist-youtube-10739644

If you would like to observe a Meteor Shower all you need is:

  • a clear night
  • cardboard or a carry mat to lie down on
  • warm blanket(s)

Don’t forget to wrap up warm. Over the Christmas holiday the Ursids will be out. They peak on 21-22 December. Enjoy!

Other Meteor showers:


Photo: Geminids Meteor Shower 2012

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