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Sep 11 / Dave Schumaker

In Search of Meteorites in Antarctica

Source: JPL

Nancy Atkinson at Universe Today wrote a fabulous post on what it’s like to hunt for meteorites at the bottom of the world. In her article, she writes about Dr. Lucy McFadden’s research and focus of looking for potential meteorites from the asteroids Ceres and Vesta that may have landed in Antarctica.

Why does one go to Antarctica to look for meteorites?

Although meteorites fall uniformly all over the Earth –estimates are between 30-80 tons a year, — most are in the form of dust. For the bigger rock-sized pieces, many fall in the ocean and those that fall on land can be buried by shifting terrain, broken down by chemical weathering, or are easily confused with Earth rocks. But Antarctica’s blue ice sheets are clear and barren, making it easy to spy a dark rock that’s likely a sample from space.

However, there’s another reason Antarctica is such a great place to look for meteorites. “There’s something special about Antarctica. Meteorites collect in certain areas there,” McFadden said. “The ice sheets are always moving, and the meteorites move with them. But the rocks get trapped by the barriers of the mountains, and that’s where the meteorites are found. Once you get a meteorite up against a barrier, the constant blowing of the polar winds ablates the ice, and rocks effectively come to the surface.” Over periods of tens or hundreds of thousands of years, very significant concentrations can build up in these areas.

There have been many previous finds of meteorites in Antarctica as well. This site lists some of the more famous finds and their locations.

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