Open Eye: Open Notebook

OU scientists check out the million dollar meteorite
Click to follow
The Independent Online
researchers at the Open University's Planetery Sciences Research Institute have confirmed that a minute meteorite sample, given to them by the Max Planck Institute of Mainz, Germany, did originate from Mars.

The 5mm chip came from a meteorite found earlier this year in the Sahara Desert by a private prospector. The head of the PSRI, Professor Colin Pillinger, came up with the name Lucky 13 - because only 12 of the 20,000 meteorites collected worldwide have been proved to have come from our solar system.

All 12 are owned by museums or the US Government, so with Lucky 13 the only one in private hands, demand for samples from the 2.2kg rock will be high. Scientists estimate that Lucky 13 will be worth US$1000 (pounds 620) per gram on the commercial market, netting the owner about pounds 1.4 million.

The most-asked question concerning Lucky 13 is will it confirm whether or not life ever existed on Mars? Unfortunately, around 4000 years spent in the Earth's environment will have contaminated the samples, says Professor Pillinger.

He believes that carrying out testing on Mars is the only way of avoiding such disputes, and is championing the British-inspired Beagle 2 mission (see Open Eye June) to make the necessary investigations on Mars.

Your chance to shine in print

next month's edition of Open Eye will be published on the Thursday in the middle of the Labour Party conference and will be seen by all delegates who attend at Blackpool. It will feature methods of new technology and new media in education, and will list new courses - at first-degree level - being offered by the OU.

More importantly, it will also present a perfect opportunity for the University and the community that supports it to exhibit its excellence to public and politicians alike.

If you have a contribution to offer, please contact us - ideally by e- mail at - with the bones of an idea (50-100 words in the first instance) rather than with the finished article, which could run to a maximum of 1,500 words. Hopefully, we will respond to you within 48 hours.

Letters, maximum 250 words (but they may be cut at the Editor's discretion), may be sent in their entirety. The deadline for accepting copy for the 1 October edition is 17 September. Ideas, therefore, need to be presented within the next few days.

You do not need to be a graduate in order to contribute to Open Eye - as we explained at the start, students are alumni too - but, clearly, you do need to be quick off the mark.

Sorry - what was that? ...No: of course there's no payment. Only the glory. But glory it is. So please don't be disappointed if your great idea or magnum opus does not, in the event, see the light of day.

...The write stuff

Meanwhile... if you have already seen yourself in print, start here. We are eager to compile a directory of OU published authors. And here we define the output of an 'author' as books, rather than papers.

Novels, biographies, children's books, textbooks, histories... The University should have a list of its alumni's work but, to date, it does not.

What we require is the information from you (if this applies to you): Surname, first name, relationship with the OU (staff job, degree, student) title, type of book, publisher, date, ISBN etc.

Connect for a new career

readers of Open Eye - and, indeed, some users of the alumni website - may be unaware of the Alumni Association Careers Centre that is available on

This is linked directly to jobs advertised in The Times Higher Education Supplement (with vacancies published on-line on the Tuesday before the Friday that the paper comes out) and with other job opportunities, including the OU's own sits-vac site.

Cap-Gemini - one of the world's top job finders, especially in IT - has a call out for OU graduates to submit their CVs with a view to placement. The agency always has thousands of job opportunities available, so it would appear to be daft not to use it.

There is also a Mentoring Service which is intended to be self-sufficient in that students or graduates who have assistance or advice to offer can communicate with those who require it.

But it is not monitored nor interfered with by the University so - again - it is up to you to use it and to take advantage of it as needed.