Scientists say they have found an ancient space rock in Antarctica — an extremely rare meteorite that contains some of the oldest material in the solar system.
“When we saw this one sitting alone in the middle of the blue ice, we were all so moved,” Chicago Field Museum researcher Maria Valdes told the Chicago Tribune.
The 17-pound meteorite, described as about “the size of a pumpkin,” was discovered on January 5 by an international team at the end of an 11-day expedition.
The extraordinary rock, which contains material from billions of years ago, is one of the largest meteorites ever found on the continent and likely originated in the Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Independent Jupiter.
“To put the size of meteorites in perspective, of the 45,000 meteorites recovered from Antarctica in the last century, only 100 are of that size or larger,” said Chicago’s Field Museum, which was part of the expedition.
Researchers spent the better part of two weeks combing the ice fields on snowmobiles, looking for meteorites, when they were stunned to find them as they wrapped up their exploration, according to the Tribune.
Valdes said he was nervous about celebrating at first “because we knew if we found meteorites, this would really be mother iodine.” It is the last day, the last hour.
The team was convinced they had indeed found a rare space rock when members were told it was “the size of a soccer ball but twice the weight of a bowling ball,” Valdes told the paper.
The rock had what Valdes described as a “molten crust” — a layer of glass that melted slightly when it entered the atmosphere. It was also worn, a sign that had been on Earth for many centuries.
The meteorite was sent to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Belgium for chemical analysis.
“All meteorites have something to say about the evolution of the earth,” Valdes said. “Size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to meteorites, in fact small micrometeorites can be incredibly valuable.”
Most of the 45,000 meteorites found in Antarctica over the past century weighed just a few pounds, The Independent noted.
The discovery comes months after NASA successfully destroyed an asteroid that traveled 530 feet in a test run to prepare for the possibility of launching a large space rock toward Earth and threatening it, such as the 6.2-mile-wide asteroid that scientists believe destroyed the dinosaurs. a million years ago
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