Antarctica is a difficult put to do the job, for obvious reasons— it’s bitterly chilly, remote, and wild. Nonetheless, it’s one particular of the ideal spots in the earth to hunt for meteorites. That’s partly since Antarctica is a desert, and its dry weather restrictions the degree of weathering the meteorites knowledge. On prime of the dry problems, the landscape is excellent for meteorite searching: the black place rocks stand out plainly versus snowy fields. Even when meteorites sink into the ice, the glaciers’ churning movement versus the rock under assists re-expose the meteorites in close proximity to the surface area of the continent’s blue ice fields.
An worldwide group of scientists who just received again from Antarctica can attest to the continent’s meteorite-hunter-friendliness: they returned with five new meteorites, such as just one that weighs 16.7 pounds (7.6 kg).
Maria Valdes, a investigate scientist at the Subject Museum and the
Valdes was one of four scientists on the mission, led by Vinciane Debaille of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (FNRS-ULB); the research team was rounded out by Maria Schönbächler (ETH-Zurich) and Ryoga Maeda (VUB-ULB). The researchers were the first to explore potential new meteorite sites mapped using satellite imagery by Veronica Tollenaar, a thesis student in glaciology at the ULB.
“Going on an adventure exploring unknown areas is exciting,” says 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.” Despite timing their trip for Antarctica’s summertime in late December, temperatures hovered around 14° F (-10° C). Valdes notes that some days during their trip, it was actually colder in Chicago than it was in Antarctica, but spending days riding snowmobiles and trekking through ice fields and then sleeping in a tent made the Antarctic weather feel more extreme.
The five meteorites recovered by the team will be analyzed at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences; meanwhile, sediment potentially containing tiny micrometeorites was divided among the researchers for study at their institutions.
Valdes says she’s eager to see what the analyses of the meteorites reveal, because “studying meteorites helps us better understand our place in the universe. The bigger a sample size we have of meteorites, the better we can understand our Solar System, and the better we can understand ourselves.”
The team was guided by Manu Poudelet of the International Polar Guide Association and assisted by Alain Hubert. They were supported in part by the Belgian Science Policy. Valdes’s work is supported by the Field Museum’s Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies, the TAWANI Foundation, and the Meeker family.