Five new meteorites, including a rare meteorite weighing 7.7 kg, have been found by a research team in Antarctica. Despite being one of the coldest places on the planet, the location’s arid climate helps preserve space rocks and the landscape is ideal for hunting them, as they stand out easily in the local frozen landscape.
Maria Valdes, a researcher at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago (USA), estimates that of the approximately 45,000 meteorites recovered from Antarctica in the past 50 years, only a hundred are the size of the one found by the group.
“Size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to meteorites. Even tiny micrometeorites can be scientifically incredibly valuable. But of course finding one as big as this is rare and really exciting,” says Valdes.
Valdes was one of the four scientists on the mission led by Vinciane Debaille from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium); The research team was completed by Maria Schönbächler (Switzerland) and Ryoga Maeda (VUBULB).
Area not yet explored
The rare meteorite was found in an unexplored area of Antarctica. According to the researchers, the location was mapped using satellite imagery.
“Exploring unfamiliar territory is exciting, but we also had to deal with the fact that the reality on the ground is much more difficult than the beauty of satellite imagery,” adds Debaille.
The group’s trip took place at the end of December, when it is summer in Antarctica and temperatures are around 10°C.
Valdes says spending days snowmobiling, hiking across ice fields, and then sleeping in a tent made the setting feel more extreme.
The five meteorites recovered by the team are being analyzed at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
Valdes says she’s excited to see what the meteorite analyzes reveal, because “studying meteorites helps us better understand our place in the universe. The larger the sample size we have, the better we can understand our solar system and ourselves.”
*With information from Cnet and EurekAlert