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A promising source was a type of rock called eucrites. These are pieces of the asteroid Vesta that have fallen to Earth in the form of meteorites.
To pursue his quest, Sarafian needed to jump two obstacles: He needed to get rare samples of eucrites, and he needed to find a way to measure the water in them.
To get eucrites, Sarafian petitioned institutions that collect meteorite samples, such as NASA, the Smithsonian Institution, and the American Museum of Natural History.
Unlike chondrites, which are water-rich sedimentary rocks, Vesta and eucrites are made of basalt, much like the rock making up the seafloor.
But for his master's degree research at Georgia, he reported for the first time the presence of water in eucrites.
The team's interpretation of the howardites and eucrites was augmented by recent close-in observations of Vesta's surface by NASA's Dawn spacecraft.
The three meteorite types -- the eucrites, howardites and diogenites -- came from an asteroid big enough for its surface rock to melt, possibly from the heat of radioactive elements inside it, concludes a team headed by Dale P.
Vesta's spectra match those of a class of meteorites called the HEDs (for "Howardites, Eucrites, and Diogenites").
The closest matches occur between a group of fine-grained igneous meteorites (called howardites, eucrites, and diogenites, or collectively HEDs) and Vesta.
A kind of meteorite called eucrites, for example, has been tentatively associated with the large asteroid Vesta, though this link is typical of such studies in that the limited data available fall far short of proving the eucrites actually came from Vesta.
Part One describes his investigations into the Vatican's 1,000-plus meteorites, measuring their densities and porosities; the detective work involved in proving that eucrites (a type of basaltic meteorite) originated from the asteroid Vesta; and his thoughts on the well-known Martian meteorite ALH 84001.