‘Meteorites are the only natural source of material from beyond the Earth, providing invaluable evidence of how the Solar System formed and evolved. Over 66% of the total classified meteorites to date have been found in Antarctica. However, iron meteorites are under-sampled (0.7%) in the Antarctic collection compared with worldwide meteorite falls (5.5%).
The team from the University of Manchester spent two austral summers in Antarctica exploring new blue icefield areas for meteorites using several methods. These included developing technology to identify sub-surface iron meteorites, to test the hypothesis that iron-rich meteorites are likely to lie buried a few cm below the surface, as well as collecting meteorites found at the surface. 36 meteorites recovered from the first field season are in the process of being classified and a further 86 meteorites from the second field season were recently returned to the UK safely. My job is to thaw the samples, break small pieces off to make polished blocks in order to analyse the composition with electron microscopes to eventually classify all the samples. The challenge is that we are doing this under clean conditions, keeping detailed curation records and trying to avoid contamination where possible at all stages of the process.’
Dr Jane MacArthur is a cosmochemist in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester. Following an MSc in Planetary Science at University College London and studying planetary materials for a PhD at the University of Leicester, she is now the curator of the first UK Antarctic meteorite collection, responsible for classifying all the meteorites recovered. Her research interests include analysing the first breccia meteorite from Mars, and the comparison of comet grains with chondrites, to better understand mixing in the early Solar System.
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