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Petrographic microscopy of NASA's antarctic meteorite thin section set

Type of Activity:

  • Lab Activity

Brief description of the activity and its strengths:

This lab activity made use of NASA's antarctic meteorite thin section set (available on loan from NASA for educational purposes), introducing the mineralogy and petrology of meteorites to students with a background in geology and prior experience with petrographic microscopy.


Type and level of course in which you would use this activity:

This was used in an upper level (junior and senior Geoscience majors) undergraduate and graduate level course on Planetary Geology. Almost all students had prior experience with petrographic microscopy.

Skills and concepts that students should have mastered before beginning the activity:

Petrographic microscopy
Identification of major rock forming minerals in thin section

How the activity is situated in its course

This activity was inserted into the class as a lab module when the thin sections were available from NASA (which is not totally under the control of the instructor). This ended up being towards the end of the semester, but could fit in much earlier.

Goals of the Activity

Content/concepts goals

The mineralogy of meteorites
The textures of meteorites

Higher order thinking skills goals

Translating observations (in this case of thin sections) into models or explanations of events.

Other skills goals

petrographic microscopy
sketching observations


This is a fun (and easy) lab to introduce students with strong geologic backgrounds but no prior exposure to meteorites to the petrography of meteorites, with a focus on chondrules and chondrites. Students will make observations, sketch examples of different features, and learn about the early days of the solar system through examination of thin sections from NASA's antarctic meteorite thin section set.


Student will need to explore the thin sections and select good "spots" that show relevant properties. Their sketches need to show well-selected spots that illustrate the properties in question, and effectively communicate them.

Supporting references and/or URLs

File Attachments

IC6_Meteorite_TS_McHenry.pdf   290 KB

Digital Object Identifier

Submitted By:

First Name:Lindsay
Last Name:McHenry
Institution:University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee