NASA has awarded Assistant Professor of Geology Tasha Dunn a $125,000 grant to help find the origins of a rare type of meteorite.

Dunn, who joined the faculty of Illinois State University in 2008, studies primitive meteorites, known as chondrites.

“These are pieces of asteroids that never melted, never went through the layering the planet Earth experienced that created our crust, mantle and core,” said Dunn. “These meteorites are composed of the ingredients that came directly out of the solar nebula when it formed 4.5 billion years ago.”

With the grant, Dunn will be studying a small group of uncommon meteorites known as CK chondrites.

“They are not well understood because we don’t have that many of them on Earth,” said Dunn, who performs geochemical analysis of chondrites – analyzing the minerals that make up the meteorites.

Her work will test the idea that CK chondrites and another group of chondrites, known as the CV chondrites, are from the same asteroid. “I don’t think represent a single-parent body,” said Dunn, “but in order to answer that question, I have to determine how much the chondrites have been heated.”