Researchers have compared two analytical techniques for studying extraterrestrial dust grains in order to assess the data that can be obtained and, at the same time, to determine which technique causes the least amount of damage to samples. Dust particles from space can be used to glean a great deal of information about the formation and evolution of the Solar System. However, the grain sizes of these materials are incredibly small and require special instruments and techniques to study them. Some of these methods, such as scanning transmission electron microscopy (S/TEM) can damage the target materials.

The techniques examined in the recent study include STEM-EELS (electron energy-loss spectroscopy) and STXM-XANES (scanning-transmission X-ray microscopy – X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy). These techniques were used to examine a rare, carbon-rich xenolith trapped inside the meteorite LAP 02342.

The study, “Low Energy STEM-EELS Characterization of Primitive Organic Matter and Silicates in the Meteorite LAP 02342,” was published in the journal Microscopy and Microanalysis. This work was supported by the Emerging Worlds Program. The NASA Astrobiology Program provides resources for Emerging Worlds and other Research and Analysis programs within the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) that solicit proposals relevant to astrobiology research.