Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter

Meteorite Curator, Dr. Kevin Righter Program News
Kevin Righter JSC

New Antarctic Meteorite Curator

In November, I assumed the position of Antarctic Meteorite Curator at NASA's Johnson Space Center. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to oversee the curation of the Antarctic Meteorite Collection. This is a large and dynamic collection, augmented every year with new, interesting and unique specimens. The meteorite processing team here at JSC does an outstanding job of carrying this out, and we plan to continue with the many new samples returned from the most recent season (see ANSMET report). I welcome any questions, comments or concerns from members of the community - please don't hesitate to contact me by e-mail at or by mail at the address found on the Antarctic Meteorite Contact Page.

My interest in meteorites and planetary science was sparked by a summer internship at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in 1987 just after completing college. I studied pallasite meteorites and their possible relation to the eucrite parent body (or Vesta) for a master's thesis at the University of Michigan with Richard Arculus. Because I had an interest in fieldwork and terrestrial petrology, I pursued a doctoral thesis at the University of California at Berkeley and worked with Ian Carmichael on field and experimental studies of the western Mexican Volcanic Belt. Since 1994, I have been a postdoctoral research associate with Mike Drake at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona. My research there has included experimental studies of metal-silicate equilibrium and core formation and planetary differentiation as well as studies of a broad range of meteorites such as metal-rich chondrites, HED and martian meteorites. I also continue working on problems in basaltic volcanism in continental and island arcs.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be a part of the 99-00 ANSMET field team. The 99-00 field season returned a whopping 1042 samples from the Queen Alexandra Range (Foggy Bottom and Goodwin Nunatak), Lewis Cliffs, Miller Range and Geologists Range.

The 1999-2000 ANSMET field team near Goodwin Nunatak The 1999-2000 ANSMET field team on Ob Hill near McMurdo

New Meteorites

This newsletter contains classifications for 439 new meteorites from the 1999, 2000 and 2001 ANSMET collections. They include samples from the Queen Alexandra Range, Bates Nunatak, Finger Ridge, Meteorite Hills, and Mt. Crean. Descriptions are given for 44 meteorites; 3 diogenites, 2 eucrites, 4 howardites, 17 carbonaceous chondrites, 7 ordinary chondrites, 2 enstatite chondrites, and 9 irons.

Mars Meteorite Compendium - 2003

Twenty-eight Martian meteorites, including ten from Antarctica, are the subjects of intense study. The Mars Meteorite Compendium is continually being updated with new data. Chuck Meyer invites corrections and/or critical comments.

New Thin Section Procedures

In Spring 2002, MWG agreed that meteorite thin sections that have been approved for and subjected to destructive analysis should be documented and records kept of the analytical techniques used in each case. When returning a thin section, any destructive analysis should be described using the new Meteorite Sample Analysis Record form (MF-76) available on the website:


In addition, a sample recall was initiated for sections that have been on loan for more than 5 years. This was done so that we do not develop situations where investigators have hundreds of sections amassed in their laboratories, making future meteorite sample returns to JSC a daunting task. Meteorite thin sections should be returned according to the procedures outlined at this URL:


Report on the 2002-2003 Field SeasonRalph Harvey at Meteorite Hills in 2001
Ralph Harvey, ANSMET

I'm not the right person to write this. I'm the lazy one who stayed home this season to play with my kids. But it falls to me to make the report, since those who actually did the work are now off climbing mountains in the Andes, surfing in Fiji, hanging out in McMurdo, or just generally avoiding me.

Thanks to wonderful support from NASA, we were finally able to deploy two ANSMET field teams this year. The larger main team went to the MacAlpine Hills, and did their best to finish ANSMET's work in the Walcott Névé region after nine previous seasons of systematic searching. The team of 8 included, Nancy Chabot (science lead), Jamie Pierce (safety lead), Scott Messenger, Carl Allan, Dante Lauretta, Dan Glavin, Linda Welzenbach, and Andy Caldwell (2nd Teachers Experience Antarctica participant - Andy's TEA web site describes the expedition).

This team deployed to the ancient Beardmore South Camp. John Schutt went along as a "native guide" for the first few days, to help them cover the 60 km traverse south to the Goodwin Nunataks. They started the season there so they could finish the remaining few sweeps left from our last season in the region (1999-2000).

About a week later, they traversed to MacAlpine Hills, where we had never really invested the resources to finish searching. The group did a great job at MacAlpine Hills, and came within just a day or two of completely finishing when Murphy's law kicked in. With just a few days left to go, they hit the "mother lode", recovering more than 100 meteorites in a single day. Then, significant snow fell, leaving them no alternative but to depart with a small area remaining unsearched for a future visit.

All reports suggest the team had an amazing chemistry, and the numbers suggest they were hard workers as well; they recovered a total of 607 specimens overall.

The goal of the smaller and more mobile reconnaissance team was to scout out poorly known or previously unvisited icefields and fully explore their potential with visits lasting a week or more rather than a few hours or days. Their targets were the icefields in the Pecora Escarpment region, which was last visited by ANSMET in 1991. The 4 person team consisted of John Schutt (science and safety lead), Diane DiMassa, Cady Coleman, and Dean Eppler. The team deployed to the region via South Pole Station, and was heavily supported by a Twin Otter, allowing them to spend time at many widely spread icefields without dangerous and time-consuming traverses. Equipped with brand-new snowmobiles (something we haven't seen since the 1980's), the group successfully identified at least one icefield with good potential, completed searching at a couple of other smaller sites, and crossed a few sites off our potential target list. Along the way, the reconnaissance team recovered a total of 317 specimens, bringing the season's total to 924.

As an observer and "leader at a distance," I was constantly envious of both teams and enormously pleased with the season's results. We have very high hopes that those of you reading this will find exciting things in the "02" meteorite collection.

ANSMET field teams for 2002-2003 season
ANSMET 2002-2003 season - MacAlpine Icefields ANSMET 2002-2003 season - Quiche Moraine
ANSMET 2002-2003 season - Scott Messenger and Danny Glavin collecting meteorite. Dante Lauretta (background) searching with a metal detector
ANSMET 2002-2003 season - team member locating meteorite ANSMET 2002-2003 season - Linda Welzenbach and team member with meteorite ANSMET 2002-2003 season - Carl Allen looking at dirt
ANSMET 2002-2003 season - ANSMET team with meteorite

This newsletter is dedicated to the crew of STS-107. Their dedication to science, devotion to space exploration, service to our country, and inspiration to people all around the world will never be forgotten.

STS-107 patch