This year's Antarctic research program includes a joint U.S.-Japanese search for meteorites that may yield information about radiation in space during past geologic ages. Besides revealing more about cosmic ray intensity in the distant past, the metorites will help scientists determine the rate of ice movement in Antarctica and the age of the continental ice cap. Carbonaceous meteorites found in Antarctica would be especially valuable because they could provide a glimpse into extraterrestrial organic chemistry never before possible.
The group of American and Japanese meteoriticists includes William A. Cassidy from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and Brian H. Mason from the Division of Meteorites of the Smithsonian Institution. The Japanese group is headed by Keizo Yanai, meteorite curator of the National Institute of Polar Research in Tokyo. Dr. Cassidy was a member of the U.S.-Japanese team which discovered the largest meteorite ever found in Antarctica; the meteorite weighed in at 407 kg.