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40-Pound Meteorite Discovered in Antarctica

Mar 01, 2013 05:03 AM EST

Scientists have discovered a 40-pound meteorite in eastern Antarctica - the largest extraterrestrial rock found in nearly 25 years.

A team of researchers from Belgium and Japan found the meteorite during a 40-day expedition on the Nansen Ice Field, located 86 miles (140 kilometers) south out of the International Polar Foundation's Princess Elisabeth station.

They found the meteorite while driving across the East Antarctic plateau on snowmobiles looking for meteorites found scattered in the region, reports LiveScience. 

"This is the biggest meteorite found in East Antarctica for 25 years," Vinciane Debaille, a geologist from Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, told LiveScience. "This is something very exceptional. When you find such a meteorite on Earth, it means that when it was in the sky, it was much larger," she said.

A total of 425 rocks weighing about 165 pounds were recovered from the area. Based on initial tests, researchers found that the large meteorite is an ordinary chondrite, stony meteorites that are commonly found on Earth.

Researchers believe that one of the meteorites could be from Mars and another piece from asteroid Vesta. Every year, researchers are sent to collect meteorites from Antarctica. The continent's dry, cold climate helps to preserve chemicals inside the rock, the LiveScience report said. These findings were made by scientists as part of the Search for Antarctic Meteorites, Belgian Approach (SAMBA) mission. 

Analyzing the meteorites will help in better understanding the formation of the solar system and how it evolved, said the researchers. 

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