The monster space rock in Antarctica is one of the largest discovered in 100 years: ScienceAlert

Antarctica has it So much for that when it comes to meteorite hunting. Dark rocks stand out against the icy landscape. Its dry climate keeps the elements to a minimum. Even when meteorites sink into the ice, they are often carried back to the surface by rippling glaciers.

Despite these ideal conditions, discoveries of large space rocks are rare.

A group of researchers have just returned from an ice-covered continent with five new meteorites that include an unusually large sample.

The large find in this stretch weighs 7.6 kg (16.8 lb), which places it in the top 100 by volume of meteorites found in Antarctica over the past century. Considering that around 45,000 people had recovered in that time, that’s saying something.

This beast of space rock is now being returned to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, where it will be studied closely during this time. with smaller rocks. Scientists can learn a lot from meteorites’ journeys is on our planet.

“Size doesn’t always matter when it comes to meteorites, and even small micrometeorites can be of great scientific value.” says cosmologist Maria Valdes, from the Field Museum in Illinois. “But of course, finding a huge meteorite like this is very rare and exciting.”

While it may be easier to spot meteorites in Antarctica, with its freezing cold conditions and remote location, the continent is not the easiest to traverse. The team involved in the discovery spent several days camping in the wilderness, hiking, and riding snowmobiles.

It also helps to know where the meteorite is most likely to be. Here the researchers used the “treasure map”. published last yearwhich uses clues found in satellite imagery — such as ice flow, temperature, and surface slope measurements — to make AI-assisted guesses about where to find new rock.

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Researchers work on an ice field. (Maria Valdes)

“Adventure exploring unknown areas is exciting,” says geologist Vincent Debaylefrom the Free University of Brussels in Belgium.

“But we also have to face the fact that the reality on the ground is far more difficult than the beauty of satellite imagery.”

The map used by the researchers is believed to be about 80 percent accurate in terms of the direction it gives, and its makers calculate that there are more than 300,000 meteorites in Antarctica, waiting to be discovered.

Despite the favorable conditions in Antarctica for meteorite finds, scientists believe we are Still missing In finding a lot of them, especially those with a high iron content. Part of the reason may be that these types of meteorites are heated in sunlight, causing the surrounding ice to melt and disappear from view below the surface.

But now there’s an exciting new assemblage of these rocks ready and waiting to be seen up close – and somewhere in the newly discovered meteorite there must be a historical relic of the solar system in which we live.

“The larger the sample size of meteorites we have, the better we understand our solar system, and the better we understand ourselves.” Valdes said.

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