New exciting meteorite project

 

Stony-iron and iron meteorite E&SS MN v2

Meteorite samples originating from asteroids. Top sample is a stony-iron meteorite (a pallasite) derived from a differentiated asteroid, and the lower sample is a stony meteorite (Allende), which is a carbonaceous chondrite derived from a primitive unmelted asteroid. Photo: Mark Nottingham/ Earth and Solar System

We are involved with a new exciting project to go and search for meteorites in Antarctica! You may well have seen our previous blog about a study looking into the possibility of there being some missing types of iron meteorites in Antarctica  – well the great news is that our colleague Dr Geoff Evatt (School of Maths), group member Dr Katherine Joy (SEES) and  collaborators Prof. David Abrahams (Cambridge) and  Prof. Anthony Peyton (SEEE) have been funded by the Leverhulme Trust charity working with the British Antarctic Survey to develop technology to locate and recovered potentially buried meteorites trapped in the Antarctic ice.

The project will test the mathematical hypothesis proposed in the team’s Nature Communications paper. The next couple of years will be spent adapting metal detection technology, currently being used in the search for landmines, to hunt meteorites that are metallic and magnetic (the stony-iron and iron types) and that may be buried within the Antarctic ice. We will be field testing in the Arctic and Antarctica before undertaking a full meteorite search mission.  The project will involve closely working with the British Antarctic Survey to plan the best blue ice fields to safely visit and undertake a field search campaign.

The great news for the meteorite community is that in addition to searching for the trapped and buried iron-rich meteorite types we will be able to also recover the stony varieties as well which will likely be sitting on the ice surface (see the blog about the US-led ANSMET meteorite hunting trips)  – we may well be coming back with fragments of asteroids and hopefully pieces of the martian and lunar crust to study in our labs.

You can read more about the project plans in the University of Manchester press release here and also see some BBC news coverage  of the project.

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Further reading:

G.W. Evatt, M.J. Coughlan, K.H.Joy, A.R.D. Smedley, P.J. Connolly, I.D. Abrahams (2016) A potential hidden layer of meteorites below the ice surface of Antarctica Nature Communications 7, Article number:10679 doi:10.1038/ncomms10679

Find out more about meteorite hunting teams:

Also see the NASA ARES meteorite curation site for details of recovered samples and associated science rationale for meteorite recovery and the Smithsonian who help classify the recovered ANSMET samples

The database of classified meteorites can be found at the Meteoritical Bulletin

If you would like to hold a meteorite in your hand then you can head over to the Manchester Museum where they have a great touch table display with lots of hot desert collected samples you can interact. The exhibit has been put together by our friends at Catch a Shooting Star.

gibeon

Face of the Gibeon iron meteorite which was found in Namibia 1838. Iron meteorites like this were once part of the cores of early formed planetary bodies. Image: Mark Nottingham/Earth and Solar System.

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About Katherine Joy

Hello! I am Katherine Joy. I am part of the University of Manchester Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry group. More details about my research interests can be found at http://www.seaes.manchester.ac.uk/people/staff/profile/?ea=katherine.joy
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