2016: Year in review - Planetary Sciences

The Planetary Group has strong links to the Isotope Geochemistry Group, the Planetary Theme, and the Planetary Science Institute.

Our research covers aspects of the early solar system through to current state of planetary surfaces reflected in planets and planetesimals.

We have international links through space missions (e.g. NASA Curiosity, Osiris REx and JAXA Hayabusa and Hayabusa 2) and we also source material through meteorites from existing collections.

An exciting new development is the funding of an ARC LIEF grant for continued construction of a Global Fireball Network (CI Prof Phil Bland, Curtin University) that offers the capability of determining where meteorites are coming from, and having the meteorite in hand in the lab. This is complementary to the Asteroid return missions (Hayabusa, O-REx) that we are also part of. We are linked with NASA SSERVI Australia hat provides research links to other planetary researchers worldwide.


• Mr Geoff Bonning completed his Honours studies on oxygen isotopes in chondrules from 3 carbonaceous chondrites, and was awarded 1st Class Honours.  Well done Geoff!

• Mr Leonardo Baeza commenced MSc studies in to oxygen isotopic compositions of chondrules in Ordinary chondrites.

•Prof. Trevor Ireland will assume the Presidency of The Meteoritical Society on 1 Jan 2016.


Janaina Avila and Trevor Ireland attended a workshop on nucleosynthesis in AGB stars in Budapest, and the Meteoritical Society Annual Meeting in Berlin.

Janaina Avila also attended the SHRIMP workshop in Granada, Spain.

Trevor Ireland also attended the 7th Hayabusa Joint Science Team meeting at the JAXA campus in Tokyo, Before the Moon workshop in Tokyo, and give an invited talk at Goldschmidt in Yokohama.

Research Activities

We use the SHRIMP ion microprobes for isotopic analysis of very small domains in meteorites and other samples. We are continuing developments on SHRIMP SI for 3 O isotope analysis. Improvements in the electron gun configuration and charge mode analysis should lead to better single analysis precision. This will allow us to distinguish materials from Mars, Vesta and Earth for example, as well as elucidating the mixtures of rock types present in meteoritic breccia.

We are continuing work on SHRIMP SI with collaborators at Macquarie University for the measurement of water in nominally anhydrous materials. This is a difficult task because of the pervasive nature of water on Earth’s surface. We are exploring the role of water in meteoritic materials with a view to understanding how water was delivered to Earth.

Outreach Activities

Janaina Avila was strongly involved in the development of the public displays in astronomy and planetary science at the Mt Stromlo Observatory.

Figure: Image of Earth from flyby of Hayabusa 2 on its way to asteroid Ryugu in Dec 2015. Antarctica and Australia are readily visible as the spacecraft uses a polar pass to get into the inclined orbit of Ryugu. Image Courtesy of JAXA.