Frozen Meteorites May Hold Clues About Our Solar System’s Evolution

December 30, 2015 | Joanne Kennell

Frozen meteorite
Photo credit: Screenshot from LosAlamosNationalLab Youtube Video

Antarctica holds some of the highest quality meteorites on the planet.

A NASA-funded team of scientists, known as the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) team or “meteorite hunters,” are about to make their way to Antarctica to look for frozen meteorites.  The hope of the expedition is that these meteorites will hold clues about the formation of other planets and moons in our Solar System.

Luckily, Antarctica is a very white place, so spotting the meteors can be easy.  Also, since Antarctica is extremely cold, it preserves the rocks — making them the highest quality meteorites compared to anywhere else on the planet.

SEE ALSO: Burning All Our Fossil Fuels Would Melt Antarctica Entirely

“These meteorites can help us understand the formation and evolution of our solar system,” said one of the researchers, Nina Lanza.  “They come from planets, their moons and asteroids. Few of these Solar System bodies will be visited by NASA in our lifetimes and this is a superb opportunity to collect material from across the solar system without having to leave the Earth.”

Over 200 people have taken part of ANSMET expeditions, including six astronauts, since it was launched 40 years ago.  Since it began, nearly 20,000 pieces of meteorites have been collected, and because glaciers move in predictable ways, scientists know exactly where to look.  Once dug out of the ice, they are sent back to the NASA Johnson Space Centre and the Smithsonian Institute for further analysis.

“So [the meteorite] is stuck in the glacier as the glacier moves, but if it runs into a mountain range the ice will slow down,” Lanza explained to Clinton Nguyen at Motherboard. “Then the wind from the centre of the continent will ablate, or remove the ice from these areas that aren't moving.”

The team will post a series of 1-minute YouTube clips while they are in Antarctica, and you can watch the first episode below.



Doesn’t this make you want to be a meteorite hunter too?

You might also like: 8 “Out of this World” Space Facts


Hot Topics

Facebook comments