Discovered at the South Pole, this meteorite is a scientific enigma
84,000 meteorites fall to Earth every year, one every six minutes, but only a few are of scientific interest. A team of international researchers has just got their hands on a piece of rock weighing more than 7 kilograms in Antarctica. A rare discovery that could help to better understand the process of formation of our planet.
At the South Pole, the ice imprisons the celestial stones. In the dazzling whiteness of the place, these black pebbles stand out in particular. A hunting ground for scientists around the world, Antarctica has been the source of thousands of discoveries over the past century.
An extraordinary meteorite
It is, however, quite remarkable to make discoveries of this magnitude. Of the 80,000 meteorites spotted in Antarctica, only a few hundred are larger and heavier than the one unearthed in early January near the Belgian station of Port Elizabeth.
An international team with the participation of ETH comes from a reconnaissance mission in the #Antarctic returned. The purpose of the mission was to find new areas with meteorite accumulations. ☄️ pic.twitter.com/NS5Bg2z9qi
— ETH Zürich (@ETH) January 18, 2023
With this new meteorite, the Institute of Royal Sciences in Brussels, in charge of the mission, will be able to study the past of our planet. This piece of rock fell about 4 billion years ago. It should give us some answers about what our solar system looked like at the time. According to the first theories, such a fragment surely comes from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
In this region of space, the ore was present in large enough quantities to unify according to the laws of gravitational attraction. But for some reason still unknown, this new planet will never see the light of day. Several billion years later, the analysis of this meteorite could provide an additional element of response.
In addition to this scientific curiosity, researchers hope to learn more about how our planet has evolved over the past four billion years. By finding such a large meteorite, it is actually a complex history book that they have just taken out of the ice. Each layer of material is a gold mine of information about our solar system, our planet and their common evolution over billions of years.
Learning by replication
Knowing more about the functioning and history of our solar system would also be a good way to reuse these models on other worlds. By having a precise idea of life on Earth four billion years ago, scientists could be interested in distant worlds, several million light years away.
The search for traces of life outside the Earth is currently limited to our solar system, but more distant exoplanets may also serve as interesting candidates.
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