Women scientists join the men on Antarctica mission to collect meteorites
A team of women scientists will be joining their male counterparts on a mission to collect meteorites in Antarctica, from 3 December until 12 December.
The meteorite research team consists of five Belgian scientists, led by Vinciane Debaille (Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Laboratoire G-Time, Faculty of Science), and three Japanese scientists from the National Institute for Polar Research (NIPR) in Tokyo.
This mission follows the success of a previous Belgo-Japanese collaboration, the Belgian SAMBA team (Search for Antarctic Meteorites, Belgian Approach), with the collection of over 800 meteorites in the Sør Rondane Mountains region. Now they are set for their latest mission to take on the Nansen blue ice field, to the south of the Princess Elisabeth station, in Antarctica.
Meteorites provide valuable information on the 4.5 billion years of evolution of the solar system and planets, including Earth. Studying these helps researchers to better understand the formation and age of the solar system, the planets, asteroids and comets. Micrometeorites constitute the largest fraction of the extraterrestrial material that falls on Earth, totalling an average of approximately 40,000 tonnes per year.
The systematic collection of meteorites, using Ski-doo snowmobiles, will concentrate on the southern and eastern sections of the Nansen blue ice field, where the scientists hope to find a piece of Mars or the Moon.
However, their research may be hampered by the fierce weather conditions expected in Antarctica. Climatic conditions are set to be very difficult, with temperatures in the region of -20 degrees Celcius, and with an average wind speed of 50 km/h giving a perceived temperature of -37 degrees Celcius. These inclement weather conditions will dictate the pace of work, as strong blizzards can sometimes halt all specimen gathering for several days at a time.
During the previous mission in 2010-2011, after searching for 13 days, 4 to 6 hours a day, a team of 5 people had found a total of 218 meteorites, varying in size from 1 to 15 cm. However, it was the types of meteorites found that proved exceptional. Among the 218 meteorites, two rare types of achondrite (stony meteorites that attest to magmatic activity in the solar system) and a carbonaceous chondrite (the most primitive meteorites having a similar composition to that of the initial material of the solar nebula) were identified.
Their mission will be carried out as part of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and ULB research programme, run by Philippe Claeys (VUB) and Vinciane Debaille (ULB). Funding for the mission has come from the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO) and logistical support is provided by the International Polar Foundation (IPF).
In 2010, Steven Goderis (VUB) and Vinciane Debaille (ULB) were awarded the InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship to carry out a detailed study of micrometeorites in order to better understand the formation of the planets and the development and evolution of our solar system. Recent studies have shown that micrometeorites can accumulate in the cracks and interstices of the nunataks in the Frontier Mountains, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica.
Data Source Provider: Université libre de Bruxelles
Document Reference: Based on information from the Université libre de Bruxelles
Subject Index: Earth Sciences