A group of scientists in Antarctica has discovered five new meteorites, including one that weighs nearly 17 lbs! This brave team endured inhospitable and freezing conditions to acquire these rare space rocks.
To date, about 45,000 meteorites have been recovered from the icy wasteland that is Antarctica. Maria Valdes, Field Museum/the University of Chicago researcher and member of the team, estimates that only 100 or so have been as large as the 16.7 lbs meteor they just recovered. But “Size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to meteorites, and even tiny micrometeorites can be incredibly scientifically valuable, but of course, finding a big meteorite like this one is rare and really exciting,” Valdes said.
While the newly found meteor is undeniably large it is far from the biggest ever recorded. That title goes to the Hoba meteorite in Namibia which weighs a whopping 132,000 pounds and measures 9 feet wide and 3 feet thick.
The team planned the excursion for late December, which is summer in Antarctica, but temperatures still sat around 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Though the team’s leader, planetary scientist at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium Vinciane Debaille, points out that at some points it was actually warmer there than in Chicago, Illinois. But given they were trekking through ice fields on snowmobiles and sleeping in tents, the conditions felt much more extreme.
These inhospitable conditions are part of why findings like this in Antarctica are so important. Its desert dry climate reduces the amount of weathering experienced by meteorites. Leaving them more intact for study. The snowy landscape also makes these large black rocks much easier to spot. Also the churning motion of glaciers moving against rock can re-expose meteorites that have fallen beneath the snow and ice. Or alien lifeforms that the last research team thought they destroyed.
These newly discovered rocks will be studied at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, The team members divide samples of sediments they collected amongst themselves for father analysis. “Studying meteorites helps us better understand our place in the universe,” said Valdes. “The bigger a sample size we have of meteorites, the better we can understand our solar system, and the better we can understand ourselves.”
But our big question is did they have a dog and is anyone acting strangely? Like the drinking gasoline kind of strange? Time to watch “The Thing” again.
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