Antarctica Yields Five New Meteorites, Offering Insights into Earth’s Formation

An international team of researchers have made a significant discovery in Antarctica, uncovering five new meteorites, including one that weighs 16.7 pounds (7.6 kg). The mission, which took place between December 11, 2022 and January 11, was meant to explore new areas of meteorite accumulation around the Belgian Princess Elisabeth Antarctica (PEA) Station. The theme meteorites were found in Antarctica Blue Ice, an area with strong winds where the glaciers get ablated.

Antarctica’s dry climate and the dark appearance of the meteorites make it the best place to hunt for meteorites. The dry climate limits the weathering the space rocks experience, and the dark meteorites are easier to spot in the snowy fields.

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“Meteorites are rocks fallen from space as a shooting star. Previously, three successful Belgian-Japanese missions to the Nansen Blue Ice Field near the Belgian station in Antartica collected more than 600 meteorites. Using satellite images and GPS coordinates, the team set out to discover the potential of several areas of interest by searching them for meteorites,” said Professor Maria Schoenbaechler, from department of earth sciences at ETH-Zurich in Switzerland and part of the team that visited Antarctica.

The Blue Ice zone of Nils Larsen, about 60 km from the station, has been recognized as an accumulation zone worthy of revisiting, the researchers said in a statement.

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“But above all, the team returns with a very nice surprise in its luggage: a 7.6 kg meteorite! Such big meteorites are very rare in Antarctica,” said Professor Schoenbaechler.

The discovery is important for Earth science research as the meteorites will help “better understand our place in the universe”. The five meteorites recovered by the team will now be analyzed at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences where scientists will study their chemical composition.

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