Belgian scientists bring home meteorite weighing 7.6 kg from Antarctica

An international team of scientists, led by the Belgian Vinciane Debaille (Université Libre de Bruxelles), has returned from Antarctica with a remarkable find. While prospecting the wide vicinity of the Belgian Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Station, they found a meteorite weighing no less than 7.6 kilograms.

The scientific mission has been searching for meteorites and micrometeorites at the South Pole for several years, using satellite images and GPS coordinates. With machine learning, glaciology student Veronica Tollenaar predicted where the expedition members had the best chances of finding meteorites. The team was also able to draw on the experience of Belgian explorer Alain Hubert, who knows the region well.

They explored the Nils Larsen blue ice zone and concluded that, as predicted, it is effectively an accumulation zone for meteorites, which requires further investigation. "The most impressive find in the area is a meteorite weighing 7.6 kg," says ULB researcher Ryoga Maeda. "The object comes from the asteroid belt and probably fell into the Antarctic blue ice several tens of thousands of years ago."

The collected meteorites must now thaw properly under controlled conditions in the laboratory of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. "After that, they will be analysed for their chemical composition and made available to the scientific community for further research," Maeda said.

The mission was possible thanks to funding from the Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo). More than 600 meteorites have been collected during previous missions to the Nansen Blue Ice Field. The international team that participated in this campaign includes Maria Schönbächler (ETH - Zürich) and Maria Valdes (Field Museum of Natural History - Chicago. Manu Poudelet (International Polar Guide Association) was the on-site guide.


The Belgian Princess Elisabeth polar station in Antarctica. © INTERNATIONAL POLAR FOUNDATION / R. ROBERT UTSTEININ.

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