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The hidden meteorites of Antarctica

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Jonathan Kingslake.

If you wish to attend this talk are not a member of staff at the British Antarctic Survey please contact me at jonngs@bas.ac.uk to let me know that you are coming. Thank you

Antarctica contains some of the most productive regions on Earth for collecting meteorites. These small regions are known as Meteorite Stranding Zones (MSZs), and they combine upward flowing ice with high wind ablation rates to concentrate large numbers of englacially transported meteorites onto their ice surface. Over the past 40+ years, collection of these surfaced meteorites by different countries has provided invaluable insights into planetary formation and evolutionary process. However, whilst meteorite falls should be distributed almost uniformly across the Earth’s surface, meteorite collection data show that the proportion of iron-based meteorites recovered from Antarctica is significantly lower than the proportion recovered from the rest of the world. This indicates a terrestrial filtering process(es) could be at play, whereby Antarctica’s achondrite, iron-rich meteorites become hidden. Here we show that englacial solar warming can cause sub-surface iron-rich meteorites to regelate down through the ice, reaching depths that can prevent the meteorites from ever emerging. This process thus reduces the proportion of iron-rich meteorites that can be found upon the ice surface of the MSZs. It also indicates that layers of these meteorites may lie hidden out of view, just underneath the MSZ ice surface. With meteorites being constantly englacially transported towards many MSZs, these layers could harbour an additional reserves of iron-rich meteorites. If accessed, this layer could potentially enable a significant increase in our library of meteorite types, thereby helping our understanding of early Solar System formation processes.

This talk is part of the British Antarctic Survey series.

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