A Belgian-Dutch scientific team has created a “world-first treasure map” of Antarctica. Using an algorithm, the researchers pinpointed where they expect to find anywhere from 300,000-900,000 meteorites under the ice.
Since no single country owns Antarctica, the treasure belongs to the international scientific community. Elsewhere, they can be sold for thousands and remain locked away in private collections – instead of ice.
Possibly, the map could be as much as 80 percent accurate, the researchers say (No guarantee all expeditions will lead to treasure).
Extraterrestrial Time Capsules in Antarctica
Thanks to the new map, there are untold thousands of “extraterrestrial time capsules” awaiting discovery, as NBC News put it.
Lead author Veronica Tollenaar, PhD candidate at Université libre de Bruxelles explains how its done:
“Through our analyses, we learned that satellite observations of temperature, ice flow rate, surface area and geometry are good predictors of the location of meteorite-rich areas,” she said.
Most of the meteorites ever found have come from Antarctica. That’s nearly 45,000 so far. By studying them, scientists can learn how planets form and potentially about life in the universe.
Why So Many Meteorites in Antarctica? ☄️
Of these thousands of new meteorites, who knows what clues they could hold? Study co-author Steven Goderis, a professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, discussed the findings via 9News.
“Although more than 45,000 meteorites have been collected in Antarctica so far, the potential for future missions to find meteorites is still largely unexploited,” Goderis said.
Certainly, scientists have a treasure trove of evidence to inspect that could take decades to study.
“According to our calculations, more than 300,000 meteorites are still present on the surface of the ice sheet, with enormous scientific potential.”
Are there more meteorites in Antarctica than elsewhere? No, but their isolation in the white ice does tend to make them stand out.
“There are probably fewer meteorites falling per acre of land in Antarctica than in other parts of the world, but if you want to find things that fell from the sky, lay out a big white sheet. And Antarctica is a 5,000-kilometer-wide sheet,” said Ralph Harvey, principal investigator at the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Search for Meteorites program.
New Era for Antarctic Meteorite Missions
According to Tollenaar, the treasure map could unlock “a new era for Antarctic meteorite missions.”
Until now, researchers have only searched for meteorites in the “blue ice regions.” The pure, dense ice looks blue in these glacial areas and behaves like a slowly moving liquid. Katabatic winds from the pole blow away the snow and ice, revealing the space rocks.
Now, researchers can expand their search beyond the blue ice zones generally found near mountainous areas.
Exploring Earth to Find Other Planets
Despite having a map, treasure hunting will remain difficult and dangerous on the frozen continent.
“Logistically, it’s super difficult,” she said. “Dangerous, even. There are lots of areas where people have never been. It’s exploring our own planet while finding other planets.”
However, scientists may begin by finding the meteorites near already established research stations. So, the treasure was nearby all along but still remained like a needle in vast frozen haystack, until now.
“We found several never-visited meteorite-rich areas relatively close to research stations,” Tollenaar explained.
A Martian Meteorite and a President
In 1996, President Clinton spoke about the possible discovery of life on Mars, causing a media frenzy.
According to NASA scientists, a 4 pound Martian meteorite found December 27, 1984, by American meteorite hunters contained what appeared to be possible evidence of life, tiny carbon-rich fossilized bacteria.
The rather ordinary-looking rock is called Allan Hills 84001, named after the hills where the explorers found it.
Recently, in January 2022, experts from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC, have concluded there is no sign of bacteria in ALH84001. Rather, salty water created the rock formations when Mars was home to briny seas. When two impacts struck the planet, it heated the surface nearby. Then, a third impact sent the rock into space millions of years ago. Some 13,000 years ago, it landed in Antarctica.
Further, the scientists said the same geological process could explain the methane found on Mars.
See more about the Martian meteorite via Cosmos:elementary:
Search for Life on Mars 🦠
Today, the search for life on the Red Planet is just getting warmed up. NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover will collect as many as three dozen Martian samples to return to Earth for study.
And, scientists will likely soon have a treasure trove of newly-discovered meteorites to examine from the southernmost continent. This time, they can use advanced techniques, including nanoscale analysis, to determine if the extraterrestrial time capsules could contain signs of life.
Video via clintonlibrary42: