If there’s such a thing as a divining rod for meteorites, the guy who obviously has one secretly stashed in his toolkit is Russian scientist Viktor Grokhovsky. If that name sounds familiar, he’s the meteorite expert from Urals University who tracked down fragments of the Chelyabinsk meteorite, the 13,000-ton rock that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on February 15, 2013, injuring over 1,000 people. Not one to rest on his celestial laurels, Grokhovsky just announced he found another massive mound of meteorite matter in Mesopotamia.
Grokhovsky led an expedition of three other researchers from the Extra Terra Consortium laboratory at Ural University and a group of Iranian scientists from the University of Kerman to a spot in the Lut desert (Dasht-e-Lut) where he found … you guessed it … meteorite fragments. The team collected about 30 kg (66 pounds) in 70 individual chunks. Grokhovsky left about half with the Iranians while taking the other half back to his lab in Russia.
That’s where the significance of this find became apparent. The researchers determined that 10-12 of the pieces were from the same meteorite, meaning their descent to Earth was part of a meteor shower.
What is Professor Grokhovsky’s meteor-finding secret? A divining rod fashioned out of other meteorite material? An ancient alien instrument found in a cave in Siberia? Unfortunately for the director of a possible movie on Viktor’s life, the boring answer is just good old-fashioned preparation and legwork. The Lut desert doesn’t actually attract more space rocks than other locations but Grokhovsky determined that its terrain and climate are excellent for preserving meteorite material. The legwork came from the Iranian half of the team, which met with the Russians last November in Berlin at an annual meeting of the Meteoritical Society to discuss their preliminary findings in the Lut desert.
The next step is to determine the age of the Lut meteorites. While Grokhosvky speculates that they could be 4.5 billion years old – the same age as the solar system – students in both Russia and Iran will be analyzing the pieces to determine how long they’ve been on Earth and howl long they were part of the outer body of a meteorite when it was still an asteroid, possibly in one of the belts of the solar system.
When he’s not scouring scorching deserts or frozen tundras for meteorite fragments, do you think Professor Grokhovsky entertains his friends by finding their lost keys and TV remotes? Asking for a friend.