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Found in Antarctica: first pictures of Russian meteorite discoveries

By Olga Gertcyk
25 January 2016

Expedition from Urals Federal University finds 300 samples of suspected space debris, clues to the history of the universe.

This first contemporary Russian expedition to hunt for meteorites on Antarctica took place from 20 December to 10 January in an area of 'blue ice'. Picture: Sergey Malagamba

Meteorites are easier to collect in Antarctica than elsewhere on Earth, because they are more visible on or near the surface. And certainly, they are simpler to obtain than sending spaceships to find and bring back samples. To scientists they gave a unique opportunity to glean secrets studying objects from all over the solar system without leaving our planet.

This first contemporary Russian expedition to hunt for meteorites on Antarctica took place from 20 December to 10 January in an area of 'blue ice' in Queen Maud Land, as the pictures here show some of the finds.

The university's rector Viktor Koksharov said: 'The Antarctic expedition has been a success, despite the extreme weather conditions in which the scientists worked. Overall, the team has gathered about 30 kilograms of samples for further study at the university's laboratory. This process may take about six months. 

'It can be said with confidence that today the Urals Federal University is becoming a centre for the study of meteorite substance.' Two of the samples - each the size of an orange - have already been assigned names - LOM 15001 and LOM 15002.

Meteorites in Antarctica


Meteorites in Antarctica

'First of all, our scientists have showed that it is possible to work in field teams outside the station and organise the collection of materials there.' Picture: Sergey Malagamba

Professor Viktor Grokhovsky - one of the world's leading authorities in meteorites - said: 'This is international classification designating the place where the samples were collected: in this case, these are from the Lomonosov Mountains. 

'The expedition has produced two main results. First of all, our scientists have showed that it is possible to work in field teams outside the station and organise the collection of materials there and, secondly, we have become convinced that the Antarctic is a unique source for holding such studies, which need to be continued.'

He predicted: 'We will be able to learn new things about the origins of the universe and future of the Earth. We will need around six months to examine the samples.'

The larger space rock samples discovered in the Antarctic are still to be dispatched from Russia's Novolazarevskaya research station in the Antarctic, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the site where the meteorites were gathered.

'Now we will start to study the available samples while the rest will be delivered in May,' he said. 'It has already been established that one of the meteorites does not possess magnetic properties, which is unusual for Antarctic meteorites. After classification is determined, we will carry out X-ray, isotope and many other studies.'

Ruslan Kolunin, a member of the team, said: 'The finds, each of which is about 3cm in size, will allow Russian researchers to learn new details about the origins of the universe - and the future of the planet Earth.'

An aim of the expedition was to scour the frozen surface for traces of biological life, seeking space dust which could be collected by melting pieces of blue ice. One theory is that life on Earth began after being carried on meteorites. 

Meteorites in Antarctica


Meteorites in Antarctica


Meteorites in Antarctica


Meteorites in Antarctica

This space debris 'is literally 'free' material, which is as old as our planet, and dates back 4.5 billion years. Pictures: Sergey Malagamba

Professor Grokhovsky - who played a key role in analysing the Chelyabinsk Meteorite which crashed into the Urals in 2013 - said before the expedition: 'There are 'blue ice' territories, which in fact are glaciers, rearing over rocks due to the movement of ice on the mountain slopes.

'They have been moving very slowly, but for millions of years. Powerful winds from the coast blow away the snow, sublimating the ice. And in this ice there are a lot of meteorite fragments, which had been reaching the surface of our planet over millions of years. You can just go and collect them.'

This space debris 'is literally 'free' material, which is as old as our planet, and dates back 4.5 billion years. 'Imagine how much you can learn about the origin of the universe, life, its natural laws and, therefore, the future of our planet. In the end, there is also a purely practical reason: to study how alloys behave in extreme conditions. 

'Different countries have already 'dragged' dozens of thousands of samples from the Antartics, and Russia, which discovered the continent, and created meteorite science, is not there yet.'

Meteorites in Antarctica


Meteorites in Antarctica


Meteorites in Antarctica

'The ice is massive, just imagine it is 1-3 km thick. Virgin mountains. Very strong winds and... meteorites.' Picture: Sergey Malagamba

Two mountains conquered by the team were named in honour of the expedition: Grokhovsky peak and Urals Meteorite Researchers peak, both around 2,000 metres high. Special notes were left in glass bottles on the tops of the peaks for future generations.

'It's quite unlikely anyone reads them in the next 300-500 years,' said Vitaly Lazo, another team member, who spoke with excitement about the scientific adventure. We have great impressions. The ice is massive, just imagine it is 1-3 km thick. Virgin mountains. Very strong winds and... meteorites.'

The expedition was organized by the Arctic and Antarctic Research and Development Institute of the Federal Hydrometeorological and Environment Monitoring Service in partnership with St Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics.

Comments (5)

Thanks so much for your excellent article. I'm writing a novel about meteorite hunters in Australia, and I'm finding your information invaluable for research, and ideas. The Siberian Times 'rocks'!
Laurence, Sydney Australia
28/08/2016 03:00
0
0
Thank you so much for the great pictures, and thank you all for advancing our knowledge of our beginnings. I admire your efforts in such a hostile environment. I hope you will return and continue to advance our knowledge of our earth and the universe. A big "Delaware Shout out" to you!
Tony, Delaware
29/01/2016 09:28
5
0
Great first expedition-looking forward to hearing more, congratulations
Spasebo
Jim, Ireland
27/01/2016 00:35
7
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Thank you Siberian Times. Stunning pictures (like you show so often), and a timely reminder that there are more important things than ideological differences between our countries. Let us work together more on projects like this. Meantime, congratulations to your Russian scientists from Urals. Please report again on conclusions from the analysis of these meteorites.
Des, Michigan
26/01/2016 01:32
10
0
I love reading about the Antarctica meteorite discoveries. It has always been a dream of mine to have the opportunity to hunt for meteorites there. Thanks for the article and congratulations to the Russian team! Not bad discovering 30 kg of meteorites and naming two mountain peaks. Job well done! From a meteorite hunter in Canada: adieu.
rokman, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
25/01/2016 21:24
12
0
1

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