Antarctica might not seem like the ideal destination for scientific research but, unbeknownst to many, it is a premier location used by scientists who specialize in meteorite study. Its vast icy terrain serves as a veritable hotbed of fallen fireballs from outer space!
Over the last century, nearly 45,000 meteorites have been discovered in what is generally considered a frozen wasteland. This astounding statistic was estimated by Maria Valdes; a research expert from both the Field Museum and University of Chicago. Clearly, finding these celestial artifacts within such frigid temperatures is not as rare an experience as one would believe!
In December, Valdes journeyed with a global team of scientists and discovered 5 new meteorites in Antarctica, officially validating it as an area abundant in meteorites.
The unique size of the meteorite – clocking in at 16.7 pounds – has caused a stir among scientists, as only about 100 similar-sized meteorites have been discovered over time. According to Valdes, it is quite uncommon for any meteorite to reach such magnitude!
The team proudly announced their remarkable discovery in a Field Museum press release.
“Size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to meteorites, and even tiny micrometeorites can be incredibly scientifically valuable,” Valdes said, “but of course, finding a big meteorite like this one is rare, and really exciting.”
Antarctica is the ideal setting to discover meteorites given its dry atmosphere and diverse topography. Its snow-covered terrain prompts dark meteors, while glaciers continually move and reveal ones that may have been concealed underground. The frozen environment of the ice helps maintain meteorites in excellent condition, preventing wear and tear that could remove any interstellar secrets they might contain.
The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences will examine each meteorite that the team recovered, and Valdes is optimistic that these discoveries could unlock some mysteries about our solar system.
Recently, researchers explored a meteorite that fell from Mars and landed in the Moroccan desert back in 2011 to uncover its hidden mysteries.
According to McClatchy News, the meteorite contained organomagnesium which indicates that Mars may have had a carbon cycle in its past–a key element for life.
Valdes said “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.”