A member of the U.S. meteorite collection team is
standing outside an ice cave in Antarctica.
Meteorites are rocks from space that have
fallen on Earth. They are fragments of other bodies in the solar system: asteroids,
comets, the Moon, and planets. These ancient rocks give us clues to the origin and
history of the solar system. Meteorites are sometimes called the "poor man's space probe"
because they arrived on Earth free of charge.
Antarctica is a very special place to collect meteorites. As many
meteorites have been recovered in Antarctica as in the rest of the world combined. This
remarkable rate of meteorite discovery is due to special conditions in Antarctica.
Meteorites which have fallen on Antarctic ice are preserved for long periods of time.
The meteorites are moved along by glacial ice which concentrates the meteorites where
the ice comes up against a rock barrier and gradually erodes away. Dark meteorites, even
small ones, are also easy to find on the ice.