Scientists are counting atoms to figure out when Mars last had volcanoes

Astroboffin-in-training makes dating breakthrough

Astroboffins have figured out a new way of dating planets and meteorites by counting individual atoms in rock samples snatched from the depths of space.

The atomic-scale imaging technique developed by University of Portsmouth scientists involves locating and counting individual atoms in planetary materials.

"Directly linking the structure and chemistry of minerals in this way opens up new opportunities to understand the spectacular complexity of planetary samples," the university said in a statement.

The research was led by Pompey PhD student Lee White, who said: "Because of the challenges scientists face in dating these complex materials, many meteorites could be older than previously thought. This could affect what we think regarding the age of the major planetary events in our solar system."

The technique is used to get one's head around the timing of major planetary events, such as the existence of active volcanoes on Mars and the point when magma oceans froze, two incidents that keep astroboffins exercising their little grey cells.

"Atom probe tomography provides 3D atom-by-atom imaging of materials with a uniquely powerful combination of spatial and chemical resolution," said the university. "It takes tiny grains of the mineral, approximately 1,000th the width of a human hair, and energises atoms one at a time using a laser."

Thanks to this technique researchers are able to construct 3D scale models of the material and then count individual uranium and lead atoms within it. In turn, that lets them carry out "accurate radiometric dating" of associated planetary events, something that White described as opening up "new avenues for dating highly deformed materials and provides an exceptional opportunity to accurately measure timings of major solar system events".

The full research paper, titled Atomic-scale age resolution of planetary events (DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS15597) is due to be published in the journal Nature Communications. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • How business makes streaming faster and cheaper with CDN and HESP support

    Ensure a high video streaming transmission rate

    Paid Post Here is everything about how the HESP integration helps CDN and the streaming platform by G-Core Labs ensure a high video streaming transmission rate for e-sports and gaming, efficient scalability for e-learning and telemedicine and high quality and minimum latencies for online streams, media and TV broadcasters.

    HESP (High Efficiency Stream Protocol) is a brand new adaptive video streaming protocol. It allows delivery of content with latencies of up to 2 seconds without compromising video quality and broadcasting stability. Unlike comparable solutions, this protocol requires less bandwidth for streaming, which allows businesses to save a lot of money on delivery of content to a large audience.

    Since HESP is based on HTTP, it is suitable for video transmission over CDNs. G-Core Labs was among the world’s first companies to have embedded this protocol in its CDN. With 120 points of presence across 5 continents and over 6,000 peer-to-peer partners, this allows a service provider to deliver videos to millions of viewers, to any devices, anywhere in the world without compromising even 8K video quality. And all this comes at a minimum streaming cost.

    Continue reading
  • Cisco deprecates Microsoft management integrations for UCS servers

    Working on Azure integration – but not there yet

    Cisco has deprecated support for some third-party management integrations for its UCS servers, and emerged unable to play nice with Microsoft's most recent offerings.

    Late last week the server contender slipped out an end-of-life notice [PDF] for integrations with Microsoft System Center's Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager. Support for plugins to VMware vCenter Orchestrator and vRealize Orchestrator have also been taken out behind an empty rack with a shotgun.

    The Register inquired about the deprecations, and has good news and bad news.

    Continue reading
  • Protonmail celebrates Swiss court victory exempting it from telco data retention laws

    Doesn't stop local courts' surveillance orders, though

    Encrypted email provider Protonmail has hailed a recent Swiss legal ruling as a "victory for privacy," after winning a lawsuit that sees it exempted from data retention laws in the mountainous realm.

    Referring to a previous ruling that exempted instant messaging services from data capture and storage laws, the Protonmail team said this week: "Together, these two rulings are a victory for privacy in Switzerland as many Swiss companies are now exempted from handing over certain user information in response to Swiss legal orders."

    Switzerland's Federal Administrative Court ruled on October 22 that email providers in Switzerland are not considered telecommunications providers under Swiss law, thereby removing them from the scope of data retention requirements imposed on telcos.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021