ANTARCTIC – Researchers have made an extraordinary discovery in the frozen landscape of Antarctica when they find a nearly 20-pound meteorite containing some of the oldest material in our solar system, among snow and ice.
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According to the Chicago Field Museum, the landscape of Antarctica is ideal for meteor hunting because the black rocks of space stick out like a sore thumb against the snowy fields. Even as they sink into the ice, the churning motion of the glaciers against the rock below helps re-expose the meteorites near the surface of the continent’s blue ice fields.
Recently, a team of researchers who just returned from Antarctica can confirm the friendliness of the continent for meteorite hunters by returning with five new meteorites, including one that weighed 16.7 pounds.
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“Size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to meteorites, and even tiny micrometeorites can be incredibly valuable scientifically,” said Chicago Field Museum and University researcher Maria Valdes. of Chicago, in a statement. “But of course finding a big meteorite like this is rare and really exciting.”
Valdes estimated that of the approximately 45,000 meteorites recovered from Antarctica over the past century, only around 100 are this size or larger.
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Valdes was one of four scientists on the meteorite hunting mission led by Vinciane Debaille of the Free University of Brussels (ULB). The research team also included Maria Schönbächler from ETH-Zurich and Ryoga Maeda from ULB.
They were the first to explore the potential new meteorite sites mapped thanks to the satellite images of Veronica Tollenaar, a thesis student in glaciology at the ULB.
“Going on an adventure exploring unknown areas is exciting,” said Debaille. “But we also had to deal with the fact that the reality on the ground is much more difficult than the beauty of satellite images.”
The five meteorites discovered by the team will be analyzed at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. Additionally, sediments potentially containing tiny micrometeorites were distributed among the researchers for study at their institutions.