Antarctica has a lot going for it when it comes to meteorite hunting. Dark rocks against a glacial landscape. The dry climate keeps the weather to a minimum. And even when meteorites fall into the ice, they often return to the surface by disturbing the masses.
In all these ideal conditions, finding significant chunks of space rock is rare.
A team of researchers recently returned from the ice-covered continent with five new meteorites that include an unusually large specimen.
The largest find in this haul weighs in at 7.6 kilograms (16.8 pounds), placing it in the top 100 in terms of size of meteorites recovered in Antarctica over the past century. Considering some 45,000 have been received in that time, that’s saying something.
This space rock monster is now being brought back to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, where it will be examined. smaller rocks. It also flatters the material from the traveling meteorites had to the planets.
“Size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to meteorites, and even small micrometeorites can be incredibly valuable,” says cosmochemist Maria Valdes, from the Field Museum in Illinois. “But of course finding a large meteorite like this is rare and really exciting.”
While meteorites could be more easily located in Antarctica, the continent is not exactly easy to travel to, with its cold conditions and remote location. The teams involved in this find camping for several days in the desert, moving by foot and snowmobile.
It also helps to know where meteorites are usually found. The researchers here used a “map treasure” published last year that uses clues found in satellite images – such as ice flow, temperature and surface slope measurements – to make educated guesses with the help of AI as to where new rocks might be. to be found
“Entering the adventure of exploring unknown areas is exciting,” says geoscientist Vinciane Debaille, from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.
“But it is also more difficult for us to do things on the ground than the beauty of satellite images.”
The map used by the researchers is thought to be about 80 percent accurate in terms of the directions it gives, and researchers have calculated that there are more than 300,000 meteorites out there in Antarctica, waiting to be found.
Despite the favorable conditions for the discovery of meteorites in Antarctica, scientists still think that we are wrong, since they think that many of them are missing, especially those high in iron. Part of the reason would be that these types of meteorites are heated by the rising sun, melting the surrounding ice and sinking out of sight below the surface.
However, there is now an exciting new look at each of these rocks and waiting to be looked forward to – and somewhere in the recently recovered meteorites the traces of the history of the Solar System are within us.
“The larger the sample size we have of meteorites, the better we can understand our solar system, and the better we can understand ourselves,” Valdes said.
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