Materials Professor Lectures On Meteorites

by Thomas Guengerich

SOCORRO, N.M., Sept. 22, 2008 – Dr. David Burleigh, New Mexico Tech Associate Professor of Materials & Metallurgical Engineering, will present a public lecture on meteorites at 7:00-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 2, in Jones Annex 101, on the New Mexico Tech campus. The lecture is titled, “Meteorites, Metals and Mankind.”

Burleigh will discuss the impact of meteorites on society and history and the use of iron from meteorites.

Asteroids become meteors when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere and begin burning. If the meteor does not completely burn up in the earth’s atmosphere, the portion that hits the planet is called a meteorite. Meteorites can do a lot of damage. For example, the newly commissioned Magdalena Ridge Observatory spends part of its time tracking and studying asteroids, and deciding if they are on a path to hit the earth.

What's the impact of meteorites on mankind? "They hurt like crazy," Burleigh said. "Seriously though, the Chicxulub meteorite which struck Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is credited with the extinction of dinosaurs. So we might not be around if it weren't for a meteorite."

Also of interest, the Kabbah, one of the holiest places for Muslims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, has a cornerstone made from a meteorite. In the Bible, Moses speaks of a land where the stones are iron. Also, meteorites are the original source of iron, a metal that has had a significant impact on human history.

Burleigh has collected information about meteorites for more than a decade. He finally decided that he wanted to share his knowledge and files. His talk is sure to be fun and informative. All ages are welcome to this free event.

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