June 16, 2024

Meteorite Hunters Discover Extraordinary 17-Pound Space Rock in Antarctica

When in the field, the groups camping tents. Credit: Courtesy of Maria Valdes
Valdes was among four scientists on the objective, led by Vinciane Debaille of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (FNRS-ULB); the research group was rounded out by Maria Schönbächler (ETH-Zurich) and Ryoga Maeda (VUB-ULB). The researchers were the first to check out prospective brand-new meteorite sites mapped using satellite imagery by Veronica Tollenaar, a thesis student in glaciology at the ULB.
Rocks strewn throughout an ice field, with the researchers searching for meteorites in the background. Credit: Courtesy of Maria Valdes
” Going on an experience exploring unknown locations is interesting,” states Debaille, “but we likewise needed to handle the truth that the truth on the ground is a lot more hard than the beauty of satellite images.” In spite of timing their journey for Antarcticas summertime in late December, temperature levels hovered around 14 ° F (-10 ° C). Valdes keeps in mind that some days throughout their trip, it was in fact cooler in Chicago than it was in Antarctica, but spending days trekking and riding snowmobiles through ice fields and after that sleeping in a tent made the Antarctic weather feel more extreme.
The group treking past rock developments in Antarctica. Credit: Courtesy of Maria Valdes
The five meteorites recovered by the team will be examined at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences; meanwhile, sediment potentially containing small micrometeorites was divided amongst the researchers for research study at their organizations.
Valdes states shes eager to see what the analyses of the meteorites reveal, because “studying meteorites helps us better comprehend our location in the universe. The larger a sample size we have of meteorites, the much better we can understand our Solar System, and the better we can comprehend ourselves.”
A snowy field in Antarctica. Credit: Courtesy of Maria Valdes
The team was directed by Manu Poudelet of the International Polar Guide Association and helped by Alain Hubert. They were supported in part by the Belgian Science Policy. Valdess work is supported by the Field Museums Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies, the TAWANI Foundation, and the Meeker household.

The scientists with their 16.7-pound find. White helmet: Maria Schönbächler. Green helmet: Maria Valdes Black helmet: Ryoga Maeda. Orange helmet: Vinciane Debaille. Credit: Photo courtesy of Maria Valdes
On top of the dry conditions, the landscape is perfect for meteorite searching: the black area rocks stand out plainly against snowy fields. Even when meteorites sink into the ice, the glaciers churning motion against the rock below helps re-expose the meteorites near the surface area of the continents blue ice fields.
A global team of scientists who simply got back from Antarctica can vouch for the continents meteorite-hunter-friendliness: they returned with five brand-new meteorites, including one that weighs 16.7 pounds (7.6 kg).
The 17-pound meteorite. Credit: Courtesy of Maria Valdes.
Maria Valdes, a research scientist at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago, estimates that of the roughly 45,000 meteorites retrieved from Antarctica over the previous century, just about a hundred or two are this size or larger. “Size does not necessarily matter when it comes to meteorites, and even small micrometeorites can be incredibly clinically valuable,” states Valdes, “but obviously, finding a big meteorite like this one is uncommon, and actually exciting.”

White helmet: Maria Schönbächler. Credit: Photo courtesy of Maria Valdes
Even when meteorites sink into the ice, the glaciers churning motion against the rock listed below assists re-expose the meteorites near the surface of the continents blue ice fields.
Valdes keeps in mind that some days during their trip, it was actually colder in Chicago than it was in Antarctica, however spending days riding snowmobiles and trekking through ice fields and then sleeping in a camping tent made the Antarctic weather feel more severe.
Valdess work is supported by the Field Museums Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies, the TAWANI Foundation, and the Meeker family.