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During a recent excursion to the icy plains of Antarctica, an international team of researchers discovered five new meteorites.
This rare meteorite is about the size of a melon but weighs 7.7 kg. The specimen is one of about 100 specimens of that size or larger found in Antarctica, a major meteorite hunting site where more than 45,000 space rocks have been tracked.
This exceptional discovery has now been sent to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, where it will be studied. And Maria Valdes, a research scientist at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago, who was part of the expedition team, keeps some material for her own analysis.
Valdes’ focus area is cosmochemistry. It “broadly means using meteorites to study the origin and evolution of the solar system through chemical methods,” she told CNN. She took samples and used strong acids to dissolve them. and then use a process called calibrated chemistry to separate the different elements that make up the rock.
“Then you can start thinking about where this rock originated, how it evolved over time, what kind of parent body it came from, and where in the solar system the parent body formed,” Valdes says. said. “These are the big issues we’re trying to address.”
Antarctica isn’t a disproportionately large concentration of meteorites, Valdez says, because they strike evenly across the Earth’s surface. I got it.But pure white ice is the ideal background for spotting pitch black rocks.
Finding the Metroid is “really low-tech and not as complicated as people think,” Valdes said. “We’re looking at the surface, walking around and driving snowmobiles.”
But the team had an idea of where to look.Ah January 2022 survey Satellite data was used to help narrow down where meteorites were most abundant may be found.
“Meteorites themselves are too small to be detected from space by satellites,” Valdes explained. “However, in this study we used satellite measurements of surface temperature, surface tilt, surface velocity, ice thickness, etc. We then plugged[the data]into machine learning algorithms to identify meteorite accumulation zones. He told me where I was most likely to find it.”
Differentiating meteorites from other rocks can be a difficult process, Valdes said. Researchers look for a fusion crust, a glassy coating that forms when a space object plummets through Earth’s atmosphere.
“A lot of rocks look like meteorites, but they’re not,” she said. “We call these meteoric mistakes.”
Another distinguishing feature is the potential specimen weight. Meteorites are much heavier than regular terrestrial rocks because they are packed with dense metals.
The conditions the researchers endured were harsh. Valdes and his three other scientists carried out their mission in a continental “summer” that provided 24 hours of sunlight, but temperatures still hovered around 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus). 10 degrees Celsius), according to a news release from Field Museum.
The research team lived in tents set up on icy terrain and spent about a week and a half with a polar guide. but, Valdes said she and her colleagues also We spent time at a Belgian research station near the coast of Antarctica, enjoying fondue and other warm, cheesy foods.
As for future research, Valdes added the good news that the five meteorites she and her colleagues found on the expedition are just the tip of the iceberg.
“I certainly want to go back there,” she said. The more we have, the better we can understand the solar system.”
The excursion was led by Vinciane Debaille, Professor at the Free University of Brussels, Brussels. She and Valdez were joined by Maria Schoenbechler, a professor at ETH Zurich and her doctoral student. Free University of Brussels and Ryoga Maeda of the Free University of Brussels.