While some freezing people continue to search for Hitler and a secret Nazi base buried under the ice in Antarctica, other researchers are looking for bigger fish – like the secrets of the origin of our solar system. A group of scientists now claim there’s a layer of ancient meteors frozen under the ice but tantalizing close to the surface that can reveal some of the history of the early solar system.
Why Antarctica? While meteorites are found all over the surface of the Earth, it’s easier pickings in Antarctica because they’re easier to spot in the white ice and the constant upheavals of that ice bring deep-buried meteors back up to the surface, especially in high-movement areas known as meteorite stranding zones (MSZs). However, metallic and ore-rich meteors that might help discern more about how the solar system formed mysteriously are rarely found in Antarctica.
Dr. Geoff Evatt and a team of researchers at The University of Manchester decided to solve the mystery and find them mathematically. As described in their report in Nature Communications, they used models and lab experiments to determine that ore-rich meteors are heated by the Sun penetrating through the ice enough to melt the ice around them and sink them slowly into the frozen abyss. The models showed that the melting counteracts against the constant upward movement of the ice and keeps these meteors buried.
Fortunately, they’re not too deep. The model predicts that these meteors are only 10-50 cm (4-20 inches) deep in the ice. That’s good news, says Dr. Evatt.
The challenge is now set: to be the first team to locate this reserve of meteorites and retrieve samples from it.
These meteorites, buried for thousands of years in Antarctica, are believed to have been created by the breakup of larger planets from the early formation of the solar system.
What secrets do they hold? That’s for some well-bundled scientists with a map and 10 cm-long picks to find out.