Antarctic Meteorite Program



The promise of substantially increasing knowledge about young igneous events in meteorite parent bodies was made with the discovery of two rare Antarctic achondrites during the 1979–1980 austral summer season. The NSF-sponsored program to recover meteorites from Antarctica will continue during the 1980–1981 season along the Transantarctic Mountains near McMurdo Station. The search will concentrate on an ice field near Reckling Peak, about 260 km northwest of McMurdo.

As in past seasons, all Antarctic finds will be returned to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for classification and curation. Many of the 27 meteorite specimens returned in 1979 have been tentatively classified; some scientifically exciting meteorites have been identified, including six achondrites. For example, Elephant Moraine A79001 is a 7.9-kg specimen that appears to be closely related to the Shergotty, India, and the Allan Hills A77005 meteorites. This rare class of achondrite sparks interest among meteorite investigators: The meteorites show similarities to terrestrial materials in their abundances of several elements and in the oxidation state. They apparently experienced igneous differentiation in recent solar system history. In addition, the Elephant Moraine specimen may be the first meteorite found to exhibit a mineral and textural gradient produced during igneous differentiation.