(USNewsMag.com) – Scientists have recovered a rare 17-pound asteroid in Antarctica. The lab in Belgium where the meteorite is being studied expects the discovery to lead to a new understanding of chondrite, an extremely rare material, and the possibility of extraterrestrial origins to life on Earth.
Before entering Earth’s atmosphere, rocks traveling through space are called asteroids. While traveling through the atmosphere, the same rock is referred to as a meteor. To the average person, meteors are shooting stars. Any material that does not burn up and reaches Earth’s surface becomes a meteorite.
Using highly technical data and imaging tools, the team of international researchers identified areas under the ice where meteorites had landed. The recent discovery was made on January 5th during an 11-day expedition. It is believed that the meteorite is comprised of chondrite, one of the oldest materials known to exist. The scientists studying the recent discovery believe that the rock likely originated from an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
While the size of the rock is likely unimpressive to laymen, the scientists who discovered it have referred to it as “massive,” due to the fact that most asteroids are much smaller by the time they reach Earth’s surface. Only 100 of the meteorites recovered in the past century are larger than the one found on this expedition.
The discovery of space rocks in Antarctica is not a rare occurrence. In the past hundred years, over 45,000 asteroids have been found on the continent. Antarctica is an especially good hunting ground for scientists because glaciers melt and re-freeze, bringing old rocks up closer to the surface in the process.
Researchers are specifically excited by this discovery because chondrite may have brought life to Earth in the distant past. The 4.6-billion-year-old material in this asteroid contains water, sulfur, and other minerals that may have helped create Earth’s atmosphere and created the conditions that allowed life to flourish on our planet.
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