An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
by Martin Horejsi

The Amazing Microscopic Meteorite World

of Tom Phillips

Is this a very unusual chondrule? The structure in this chondrule of SaU 001 is not like a typical barred chondrule as the tendrils appear to be intertwined. This photograph was taken at 1800x.

Last summer, I received an email from Joel Schiff, the then editor of Meteorite Magazine. Joel said he might be heading my way because a mutual acquaintance (as yet only through electronic means however) was moving to my part of the country, namely southeastern Idaho. The gentleman's name was Tom Phillips, and most Meteorite magazine readers were aware of his amazing microscopic photography of meteorites. Tom's photos have graced the cover and pages of Meteorite Magazine, various Internet sites, and the cover of Kevin Kichinka's book The Art of Collecting Meteorites ($21.95 and a highly recommended read).

As you likely know, Joel fell ill so his trip to the states (and thus Idaho) was canceled. But through the conduit of Joel, Tom, who is now essentially my next-door neighbor (actually 25 miles away in another town, but close enough for Idaho) and I have been getting together regularly to talk and dream up new meteorite projects.

Last week, we combined talents to give a talk to a local rock club. Afterwards, we sat around talking meteorites for another hour or two. Part of that discussion included Tom, in his usual nonchalant fashion, producing a couple photos that, and I mean this seriously, left me speechless. The pictures were literally beyond anything I had ever imagined could be lurking in meteorites.

So in this installment of the Accretion Desk, I am showcasing some of Tom's pictures along with a line or two from Tom about the images.

This meteorite is an L6 named Jiddat al Harasis (JaH) 073.   Streaks of this unusual material runs through many of the slices I have examined.  This image was taken in incident light at 400x.

The Specialized Techniques:

The incident light images were taken on an aus Jena Neophot 21 using a 100 watt halogen light source for magnifications of up to 800X.  Higher magnifications utilized a 150 watt Xenon short arch lamp.

Light (and reflection) was controlled using polarizers which, when used in this manor, is not color altering as is the case with transmitted cross polarized light.
The objectives used were aus Jena GF-Planapochromat, and the 1600X and higher used the addition of immersion oil.
The transmitted cross-polarized light images were viewed on an aus Jena Fluoval retrofitted with a 500-watt halogen lamp and the circular polarizers used with a 1/4 wave light retardation plate.

Red Malachite?  This material was found in an unclassified meteorite slice that looks like an impact melt breccia. The above photo was taken in incident light at 1800x.

The above image is in a slice of Dhofar 019, a Martian Shergottite. The slice was photographed at 1800X in incident light.

This specimen containing the photographed features in the above three images is unclassified, but I suspect its an impact melt breccia. All three pictures were taken at 1800x.

The above image is an iron compound in an unclassified meteorite slice. The image was taken in incident light at 400x.

This image is an unclassified specimen in thin section, and photographed in cross-polarized light at 1200x. This magnification is rather high for using cross-polarized light.

This is a chondrule showing a crystal structure as well as a " string of pearls" pattern. The upper picture was taken at 400X, and the lower picture was photographed 2000x.

The above image is a thin section of Jiddat al Harasis (JaH) 055, an L4/5 chondrite.  Thie picture was taken in cross polarized transmitted light at 160X.

This image has generated some controversy. This unusual chondrule found in a L4 chondrite named JaH 055. The oddity was photographed at 620x in the top photo and at 1100x in the lower picture. These micrographs were taken of a polished slice in incident light. I estimate the chondrule measures approximately 0.3mm in diameter.

The Unclassified meteorite thin section. This chondrule looks (and acts) like a star sapphire. The image was taken in cross polarized transmitted light at 160x.

This feature was captured in an L6 chondrite named DaG 478. This micrograph was taken using the diffucult balance combining Incident light and transmitted cross polarized ight at 160x.

This is a very colorful inclusion in an unclassified NWA slice.  Tom was told "There is no way that [feature] is in a meteorite". This photograph was taken at 2000x.

Tom Phillips can be reached by email at:

The Accretion Desk welcomes all comments and feedback.