Recently, research scientist Maria Valdes has reminded people that size doesn’t matter, but she understands why people are excited about her team’s findings.
On a trip to the Antarctic in late December, he and three other scientists came across a 17-pound meteorite, heavier than most bowling balls and Halloween pumpkins. About one in every 450 or so meteorites found in the frozen region is this size or larger, according to an announcement from the Field Museum in Chicago where Valdes works.
Meteorites are usually between the size of a rock and a fist, according to NASA.
“Even small micrometeorites can be of great scientific value,” Valdes said in a statement(Opens in a new window)“but of course, finding a large meteorite like this is unusual, and very exciting.”
A meteorite pierced the dog house. It is now a collector’s item.
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Scientists estimate about 48.5 tons of meteorite material billions of years old(Opens in a new window) rain falls on the earth every day, most of which comes from the atmosphere or falls into the oceans, which cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface.
“Finding a large meteorite like this is rare, and very exciting.”
More than 60,000 meteorites have been found on Earth. Most come from asteroids, but a small sliver, about 0.2 percent(Opens in a new window), come from Mars or the moon, according to NASA. About 175 have been identified(Opens in a new window) from the Red Planet.
Many meteorites are found in Antarctica because they are easier to see in the great cold plains. These black craters stand out against the snow-white surface, and even if the meteorite sinks into the ice, the ice that moves beneath it helps to resurface the rocks from the blue ice.
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An international team of scientists scours the Antarctic ice sheet for meteorites.
Credit: Maria Valdes / Field Museum
But the experience of researchers can be brutal(Opens in a new window). The group spent many days walking on snow and ice, but returned to camp that night. The expeditions were uneventful, however: For the first time, a meteorite hunt in the Antarctic used satellite images.(Opens in a new window) as a valuable map to help identify new rock sites.
Meteorites are divided into three main groups(Opens in a new window): “metals,” “stones,” and “stones.” Most meteorites that fall to Earth are rocky, although the space rocks that scientists find long after they land are usually iron: they are heavier and easier to distinguish from everyday Earth rocks.
Ryoga Maeda, one of the researchers, said the rock must have come from a large asteroid belt and crashed into Antarctica thousands of years ago. They called it “common chondrite,” according to an announcement from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.(Opens in a new window)meaning that they are considered to be among the most common types of meteorite rocks.
The meteorite will be studied at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
Credit: Maria Valdes / Field Museum
Scientists will need to analyze the giant stone, as well as four others found on the expedition, in a lab before they can say anything definitive about its color or origin. The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science conducts the course.
The researchers will also take debris from their homes to see if they contain small pieces of meteorite debris.
“Studying meteorites helps us understand our place in the universe,” Valdes said in a statement. “The more samples we have of meteorites, the better we can understand our solar system, and the better we can understand ourselves.”