Huge meteorite containing oldest material in the solar system have been found in Antarctica
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A large meteorite containing some of the oldest materials in our solar system has been discovered in Antarctica. The rock is one of the biggest ever discovered, and will help scientists understand the evolution of the sun and planets.
Weighing in at 17lb (7.6kg), the black meteorite was relatively easy to find due to Antarctica’s white ground. The continent is scientists’ favourite spot to look for meteorites, as the cold and dry climate helps preserve the space rocks while the white snow helps in spotting them.
Dr Maria Valdes, of The Field Museum, Chicago, and part of the team that found the meteorite, said: "When it comes to meteorites, size doesn’t have to matter.
"Even tiny micrometeorites can be incredibly valuable from a scientific point of view. But, of course, to find such a large meteorite like this is very rare."
More than 45,000 meteorites have been found in Antarctica in the last century, of them, only around 100 have been as large as this one. The majority found are so called micrometeorites weighing from around 10 grams up to a few hundred.
The expedition, consisting of Maria Valdes, Maria Schönbächler of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Ryoga Maeda, a doctoral student at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Université Libre de Bruxelle, and Vinciane Debaille a professor at Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.
The team travelled for days via snowmobile to sites previously mapped via satellite. They found five specimens near the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica research station.
Professor Maria Schönbächler said: "To find such a big one - this is kind of luck to be honest."
She explained that the meteorite appears to be made of chondrite, the most common meteorite material. It contains the oldest materials in the solar system and most likely originated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The stone is now being transported to Belgium in a cold box to prevent any thawing of the precious materials, where it will be analysed by scientists. Hopes are the meteorite will offer up more information about the universe.
Dr Ashley King, of the Natural History Museum in London, said: "We don’t tend to find too many meteorites in Antarctica that are as big as this. The more meteorites we have, the more samples that we have available for us to study and learn about the early solar system."