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Dr Ashley James King

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Professional biography

I obtained an MEarthSci in Geology with Planetary Science (2007) and then a PhD in Isotope Cosmochemistry (2010) from the University of Manchester, UK. During my PhD I used time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS) to investigate presolar grains that condensed around stars before our solar system formed.

I then spent a year as a post-doctoral research scholar at the University of Chicago, USA, continuing my presolar grain research and helping to build the next generation of resonant ionisation mass spectrometry (RIMS) instruments.

I briefly returned to the University of Manchester before starting as a post-doctoral research assistant at the Natural History Museum (NHM), UK in 2012. At the NHM my research developed a strong focus on using the mineralogy and petrography of meteorites as a way to unravel the geological history of asteroids.

In 2019 I became a Lecturer in Planetary Science at the Open University, where my research continues to use extraterrestrial materials to understand how the solar system evolved from a cloud of gas and dust into the Sun, planets, moons, asteroids and comets.

Research interests

The solar system formed from the collapse of an interstellar cloud of gas and dust ~4.6 billion years ago. But how did that gas and dust coalesce into the Sun and planets that we see today? And what processes and events led to the formation of habitable planets like the Earth? Meteorites are rocky time capsules that can be used to probe the earliest stages of solar system formation and the evolution of planets.

I explore the formation of solar systems by studying the physical and chemical properties of meteorites and extraterrestrial materials returned to Earth by space missions. I have expertise in a wide range of analytical tools, including electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, and laboratory and synchrotron-based spectroscopy, that I use to investigate presolar and solar dust in the protoplanetary disk, the geological history of asteroids and comets, and the relationship between meteorites, asteroids and comets.

Research Students

Louise Zenie - The evolution of material in the inner solar system: Elucidating the history of enstatite chondrites (Natural History Museum/Open University).

Helena Bates - The formation and evolution of asteroids (Natural History Museum/University of Oxford).

Enrica Bonato - The mineralogy of protoplanetary dust (Natural History Museum/University of Glasgow).

Teaching interests

S111 - Questions in Science (module team member)

S350 - Evaluating Contemporary Science (module team member)

SXPS288 - Remote Experiments in Physics and Space (topic specialist/module team member)

Impact and engagement

Selected as one of the World Economic Forum's Young Scientists of 2019.

Convenor of 2017 RAS Specialist Discussion Meeting - Science of Primitive Asteroid Sample Return Missions.

Convenor of the NHM's Meteorites and Solar System Formation workshop in 2015.

Organising committe of the Impacts and Astromaterials Research Centre symposium in 2014.

I am leading efforts to develop camera networks in the UK that record meteors and can be used to track meteorite falls. As part of this I installed a meteor camera on the roof of the Natural History Museum, and helped to set-up a student-run camera on a secondary school in London.

External collaborations

Scientific Associate in the Mineral and Planetary Science Division at the Natural History Museum, London.

Member of The Royal Astronomical Society.

Member of The Meteoritical Society.


Isotopic and textural analysis of giant unmelted micrometeorites – identification of new material from intensely altered 16O-poor water-rich asteroids (2020-09-15)
Suttle, M.D.; Dionnet, Z.; Franchi, Ian; Folco, L.; Gibson, Jennifer; Greenwood, Richard; Rotundi, A.; King, Ashley and Russell, S.S.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 546, Article 116444

Distinguishing relative aqueous alteration and heating among CM chondrites with IR spectroscopy (2020-08)
Hanna, R. D.; Hamilton, V. E.; Haberle, C. W.; King, A. J.; Abreu, N. M. and Friedrich, J. M.
Icarus, 346, Article 113760

Terrestrial modification of the Ivuna meteorite and a reassessment of the chemical composition of the CI type specimen (2020-01-01)
King, Ashley J.; Phillips, K. J. H.; Strekopytov, S.; Vita-Finzi, C. and Russell, Sara S.
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 268 (pp. 73-89)

Linking mineralogy and spectroscopy of highly aqueously altered CM and CI carbonaceous chondrites in preparation for primitive asteroid sample return (2020-01)
Bates, H. C.; King, A. J.; Donaldson Hanna, K. L.; Bowles, N. E. and Russell, S. S.
Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 55(1) (pp. 77-101)

Organic Matter in the Solar System—Implications for Future on-Site and Sample Return Missions (2020)
Martins, Zita; Chan, Queenie Hoi Shan; Bonal, Lydie; King, Ashley and Yabuta, Hikaru
Space Science Reviews, 216, Article 54(4)

The Yamato-type (CY) carbonaceous chondrite group: Analogues for the surface of asteroid Ryugu? (2019-12)
King, Ashley; Bates, Helena; Krietsch, Daniela; Busemann, Henner; Clay, Patricia; Schofield, Paul and Russell, Sara
Geochemistry, 79, Article 125531(4)

The diversity of CM carbonaceous chondrite parent bodies explored using Lewis Cliff 85311 (2019-11-01)
Lee, Martin R.; Cohen, Benjamin E.; King, Ashley J. and Greenwood, Richard C.
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 264 (pp. 224-244)

Spectral characterisation of analog samples in anticipation of OSIRS-REx's arrival at Bennu: A blind test study (2019-02)
Donaldson Hanna, K. L.; Schrader, D. L.; Cloutis, E. A.; Cody, G. D.; King, A.J.; McCoy, T. J.; Applin, D. M.; Mann, J. P.; Bowles, N. E.; Brucato, J. R.; Connolly Jr., H. C.; Dotto, E.; Keller, L. P.; Lim, L. F.; Clark, B. E.; Hamilton, V. E.; Lantz, C.; Lauretta, D. S.; Russell, S. S. and Schofield, P. F.
Icarus, 319 (pp. 701-723)

Type 1 aqueous alteration in CM carbonaceous chondrites: Implications for the evolution of water-rich asteroids (2017-06)
King, A. J.; Schofield, P. F. and Russell, S. S.
Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 52(6) (pp. 1197-1215)

Elephant Moraine 96029, a very mildly aqueously altered and heated CM carbonaceous chondrite: Implications for the drivers of parent body processing (2016-08-15)
Lee, Martin R.; Lindgren, Paula; King, Ashley J.; Greenwood, Richard C.; Franchi, Ian A. and Sparkes, Robert
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 187 (pp. 237-259)

Modal mineralogy of CI and CI-like chondrites by X-ray diffraction (2015-09-15)
King, A. J.; Schofield, P. F.; Howard, K. T. and Russell, S. S.
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 165 (pp. 148-160)

Characterising the CI and CI-like carbonaceous chondrites using thermogravimetric analysis and infrared spectroscopy (2015)
King, Ashley J.; Solomon, Jake R.; Schofield, Paul F. and Russell, Sara S.
Earth, Planets and Space, 67(1)

Evidence for interstellar origin of seven dust particles collected by the Stardust spacecraft (2014-08-15)
Westphal, A. J.; Stroud, R. M.; Bechtel, H. A.; Brenker, F. E.; Butterworth, A. L.; Flynn, G. J.; Frank, D. R.; Gainsforth, Z.; Hillier, J. K.; Postberg, F.; Simionovici, A. S.; Sterken, V. J.; Nittler, L. R.; Allen, C.; Anderson, D.; Ansari, A.; Bajt, S.; Bastien, R. K.; Bassim, N.; Bridges, J.; Brownlee, D. E.; Burchell, M.; Burghammer, M.; Changela, H.; Cloetens, P.; Davis, A. M.; Doll, R.; Floss, C.; Grun, E.; Heck, P. R.; Hoppe, P.; Hudson, B.; Huth, J.; Kearsley, A.; King, A. J.; Lai, B.; Leitner, J.; Lemelle, L.; Leonard, A.; Leroux, H.; Lettieri, R.; Marchant, W.; Ogliore, R.; Ong, W. J.; Price, M. C.; Sandford, S. A.; Tresseras, J.-A. S.; Schmitz, S.; Schoonjans, T.; Schreiber, K.; Silversmit, G.; Sole, V. A.; Srama, R.; Stadermann, F.; Stephan, T.; Stodolna, J.; Sutton, S.; Trieloff, M.; Tsou, P.; Tyliszczak, T.; Vekemans, B.; Vincze, L.; Von Korff, J.; Wordsworth, N.; Zevin, D. and Zolensky, M. E.
Science, 345(6198) (pp. 786-791)