Organics

This is an embroidery of the pattern left behind during a laboratory experiment to isolate organic molecules from a meteorite. As one of the largest observed meteorite falls, impacting in Australia in 1969, the Murchison meteorite has made major contributions towards understanding organics from the beginning of our solar system. With a series of washes, minerals dissolve away, leaving behind the insoluble organic matter, which were an important source of C and other bioessential elements during planet formation.

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This piece was a collaboration with Dr. Kelly Miller, a cosmochemist at the Southwest Research Institute who studies solar system formation (and a friend of mine from grad school). She recently posted a picture on twitter following some laboratory work she’d done isolating organic materials from meteorite samples. Studying meteorites gives us a lot of information about what elements condensed where during¬† the formation of the solar system- to boil a complex science down to a few words, this tells us what the conditions were like in the early solar system, what chemistry was possible, and how it all came together to form what we see today. Studying the presence of organic molecules and water in meteorites helps us to understand the conditions that lead to planet formation, and in the case of our own, what resources were available for life to develop.

Anyways, I’m getting all science on you here- my point is that meteorites are cool. Kelly spent time in the lab to isolate the organics from a sample of the Murchison meteorite, and the pattern that the solution made while drying is just beautiful. I love how organic it looks (figuratively, rather than chemically I mean), but at the same time reminds of Celtic knots in a way- something beautiful that we created to emulate nature. I am not going to try and over-describe the context here, the beauty of science as a practice/process as well as the natural elegance of the physical process that resulted in this pattern. I thought embroidery would suit the pattern well, a few action shots of the process below. I’ll be shipping the final piece to Kelly’s lab after exhibiting it in the upcoming Art of Planetary Science show.