back to article Belgian boffins find colossal meteorite

Belgian meteorite hunters scooting about Antarctica on skidoos have described what they say is the largest meteorite find on the frozen continent since 1988. Geologist Vinciane Debaille of the Université Libre de Bruxelles told the International Polar Foundation that she and her colleagues on an international meteorite-hunting …


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  1. Silverburn


    ...the Antarctic? Better preservation of samples?

    Enquiring minds must know.

    1. Duncan Macdonald

      Re: Why...

      Any rocks on the surface of the ice must have been deposited by something - and the only something around is a meteorite fall.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Why...

      Probably more about it being a very large bit of land, where meteorites stick out like a sore thumb against the white background, and being much easier to search in large teams than the woodlands and tundra of russia and the likes.

    3. Harvey Trowell

      Enquiring mind, really?

      Hit no. 2 on Google, introductory paragraph:

      "Antarctica, it has been discovered, is the best meteorite trap on Earth. Firstly meteorites fall onto ice rather than hard rock and so are damaged less. Then, being rock, they stand out from their background unlike those falling in the temperate zones which will mainly be not distinguished from the local rock. Then there is a curious concentration process by which ice flowing outwards and meeting a rock or mountain obstruction, shears upwards bringing the enclosed meteorites to the surface. In many regions where ice is trapped against a mountainside and with no easy path to flow away, the ice is slowly reduced in thickness by solar ablation and ablation by katabatic winds, eventually after hundreds of thousands of years leaving a surface littered with extra-terrestrial objects."

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why...

      I imagine they are easier to spot as well. They probably have a greater chance of breaking up on impact in other terrain? Just guessing.

    5. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Why...

      Its better preserved because it doesn’t sit on acid/alkaline soil, it doesn’t get rained on, or fractured by blistering sunshine or collect several layers of mcdonalds and cheap alcohol containers.

      The real reason though is you can find the buggers against a white background and they are preserved in the sense joe public tends not to get there first.

      Alas after all this care and attention they will have high levels of Feinnes fingers.

    6. StephenD

      Re: Why...

      If a bit of rock is found on the surface of the ice in Antarctica (or at any rate in an intelligently chosen subset of such locations), it is a meteorite, pretty much guaranteed. And rocks show on ice very well. And not many people about. And in places the ability to survey large areas with relative ease.

      Taken together, they make it an ideal hunting ground. Compare temperate zones where there are rocks everywhere, lots of forest and private land, etc.

    7. bat

      Re: Why...

      Think it may just be there's a better chase of spotting it sitting on the snow/ice. a lump of rock here couldn't come from many places, as the ice is many metres thick. Also having one drop on a rocky hill or grass covered earth means there's a lot of rock that isn't from space and would need to be sorted through

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why...

      It's a combination of reasons, there is little precipitation in Antarctica so they don't get covered by snow and ice, likewise no vegetation to hide them. Most meteorites are black so they really stand out on the ice. (Similarly, the North African desert is a good meteorite hunting site because the meteorites sit on the surface for thousands of years).

      If you're doing a magnetic survey, iron and stony-iron meteorites will be immediately visible to the sensors. Finally, those that do eventually get covered by the ice are transported to ablation zones where the ice sublimes and melts leaving meteorites behind, so you can get enormous concentrations of meteoritic rock at the toe of glaciers.


    9. Psyx

      Re: Why...


      ...the Antarctic?"

      I've heard a lot of other explanations, but the truth is that they hate their wives and the beer is duty free.

    10. Ru

      Re: Why...

      There's also the slight benefit that there are very, very few people searching the area, those that are searching are scientists, and there's no local laws prohibiting them from taking any they find.

  2. Tom 7 Silver badge

    "he/she warns the others by radio"

    I would never have thought of using petraphobes to hunt for meteorites but it seems to be paying off!

  3. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Thaw to prevent water contamination?

    Call me old fashioned, and excuse the technical scientific parlance, but surely a lump of rock big enough to end up as 18Kg on the surface would have been substantially toasty when it landed and punched what's commonly known as 'a big hole' in the snow?

    In my mind, small though it is, I thought a hot stone may have melted itself a really good hole before it cooled anyway. Now (using possibly flawed logic and limited scientific knowledge) melted snow and ice may form, what we commoners call "water". And, if you have a rock cooling in a puddle does that not cause possible water contamination?

    On the other hand, maybe the rock 'soft landed' so it didn't form a crater or any sort of hole ... but surely there'd be signs of its parachutes or retro-rockets?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Thaw to prevent water contamination?

      strangely (well not really) small rocks tend to land at pretty close to ambient temperature. Fist sized rocks tend to land with the outside at around ambient and then cool rapidly as the innards are still very very cold from space.

      Big rocks might land with the outside still hot and then get cold too.

      If you watch the videos of the Russian jobbie you will see that the remains stop glowing a long long way up when its slowed down to a few mach and even the big one they found here will have a terminal velocity well below the speed of sound which gives it plenty of time to cool down.

      Now a big iron meteorite will probably not break up but then the outside melts off like its being attacked by a mad welder. I'd give BIG money to watch one of those come in at night!

      1. cortland

        Re: Thaw to prevent water contamination?

        -- I'd give BIG money to watch one of those come in at night! --

        Once might be you'd get. Insert card here ...

        Mushroom cloud preview

    2. Psyx

      Re: Thaw to prevent water contamination?

      "but surely a lump of rock big enough to end up as 18Kg on the surface would have been substantially toasty when it landed and punched what's commonly known as 'a big hole' in the snow?"

      Empirical results seem to dictate otherwise. I'd suggest writing a stern note to the rock in question!

  4. Pen-y-gors

    no touching?

    Touching with human hands is a no-no, lest it be contaminated.

    But what if it's already been contaminated by penguin feet?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: no touching?

      That is a typical MS fanboy dig at linux! Typical Steve Balmer FUD, and totally unfounded too!!!!!!!!!

      I, I, I,....


      Oh wait, you are talking real penguins. Please excuse me; do carry on.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: no touching?

        Obviously the solution is retrieval by android.

        1. Ed_UK

          Re: no touching?

          "Obviously the solution is retrieval by android."

          Hah - back to OS wars again.

          Should be retrieved by iSkate.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: no touching?

      "Touching with human hands is a no-no, lest it be contaminated"

      Antarctica, contamination from outer space.... I hope Kurt Russell is at hand or WE'RE DOOMED

    3. bazza Silver badge

      Re: no touching?

      Never mind penguin feet, what about penguin shit? Are we about to mistakenly discover that aliens like fish?

  5. Charles 9

    18kg is Colossal?!

    Goodness. I was half-expecting them to have uncovered that part of the continent constituted some (since I can't use the word colossal anymore) brobdingnagian meteorite hidden for millennia (something, say, the size of Australia's Uluru-Kata Tjuta).

  6. James 47

    Ultimate troll

    fly over antartica scattering rocks all over

  7. cortland

    RELATIVELY collosal, anyway

    Are we piling micro-Ossa on mini-Pelion? Hmm. that sound$ like a registrable trademark... or a nationality.

    Minipelions march; demand meteorites.

    Better shut up now.

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