A large meteorite, possessing a mass of 18 kilograms, has been discovered buried in the East Antarctic ice sheet by researchers working at the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica research station. This is the biggest meteorite discovered in the last 25 years.
Eight scientists from the SAMBA project were out looking for meteorites on the Nansen Ice Field on the day of January 28, when they came upon the 18 kilogram “ordinary chondrite”. After searching the area further, the researchers “discovered a total of 425 meteorites, with a total weight of 75kg during the 40 day expedition, at an altitude of 2,900m, 140km south of Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Antarctica research base.”
“This meteorite was a very unexpected find for us, not only due to its weight, but because we don’t normally find such large meteorites in Antarctica,” said Vinciane Debaille, a geologist from Université Libre de Bruxelles, who led the Belgian part of the team during the expedition. “This is the biggest meteorite found in East Antarctica for 25 years, so it’s a very special discovery for us, only made possible by the existence and location of Princess Elisabeth Antarctica.”
The field analysis that was done by the researchers suggests that “the 18kg meteorite is an ordinary chondrite, the most abundant kind of meteorite. The fusion crust — the meteorite’s outer casing — was eroded, allowing the scientists to inspect the rock underneath. The meteorite is currently undergoing a special thawing process in Japan — to ensure water doesn’t get inside the rock.”
“We study meteorites in order to better understand how the solar system formed, how it evolved, how the Earth became such a unique planet in our solar system,” said Debaille. “This season’s SAMBA mission was a success both in terms of the number and weight of the meteorites we found. Two years ago, we found less than 10kg. This year, we found so much that we had to call the travel agency — because we had 75kg of meteorites to take home.”
The Princess Elisabeth Antarctica research station is also well known for reasons other than meteorites, it’s also the world’s first zero emission polar research station. The buildings on site seamlessly integrate “passive building technologies, renewable wind and solar energy, water treatment facilities, continuously monitored power demand and a smart grid for maximizing energy efficiency.”
Located in East Antarctica’s Sør Rondane Mountains, Princess Elisabeth Antarctica welcomes scientists from around the world to conduct research in this little-studied and pristine environment.
Source: International Polar Foundation
Image Credits: International Polar Foundation