ULB-VUB expedition brings huge 7.6 kg meteorite from Antarctica


There was huge excitement when the international research team, led by ULB, stumbled upon a whopper weighing in at 7.6 kg among the five meteorites found in Antarctica at the beginning of the year. The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences will now analyse their chemical composition.

This is a so-called chondrite, a stony and silicate-rich meteorite that contains a great deal of metal. It came from an asteroid belt and may have been deposited in Antarctica tens of thousands of years ago, more specifically in the Blue Ice zone of Nils Larsen, some 60 km from Belgium's Princess Elisabeth Station. Ancient layers of ice, compressed underground, under tremendous pressure for centuries turn blue before dawdling along, pushed by the thrust of underlying mountain ranges. A ULB glaciology student correctly surmised that this ice zone was also an accumulation point and gathering place for meteorites.

An estimated 45,000 meteorites were found in Antarctica during the 20th century. The continent is an excellent site for several reasons. The cold and dry air inhibits the weathering of the black chunks from space. They are also easy to spot in the icy or snowy plains. Even as they sink into the ice, the abrasive motion of the glaciers against the rocks propels them back to the surface over time.

What else we can learn about our solar system and ourselves from this impressive find?