QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2004-12 > 1102122936
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 2004 20:15:37 EST
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- University of New Mexico researcher Barbara Cohen
now knows for certain that the rock she found while trolling the barren
Antarctica landscape is special.
She and a team of geologists picked up a chunk of the moon - one of only
about 30 ever found on Earth.
"We found it almost a year ago, but the analysis wasn't finished until last
month," she said. "When I found out it was from the moon, I was so elated.
The team knew it was something interesting in the field, but we couldn't test
there. We just had to wait."
Cohen is an assistant research professor at the UNM Institute of
She and a team of eight geologists collected the fist-sized meteorite on a
six-week trip during the Antarctic summer, which is December and January. They
were trolling the La Paz ice sheet on snowmobiles when they found it.
Finding a meteorite is like finding a puzzle piece to the universe because
each chunk tells scientists more about how other planets and asteroids
developed, Cohen said.
"It's a real primal thrill of discovery, because no one has ever seen that
rock before you," she said. "If you know the rock you found is unusual, your
mind just goes crazy wondering what it could be. It could be the first
meteorite ever found from Venus, or it could be from the moon or Mars."
Cohen's Antarctica trip was part of a National Science Foundation program to
collect meteorites for the U.S. national archive. Scientists from all over
the world are chosen each year to search Antarctic ice sheets for new
meteorites, which fall on the ice and stick out in the snowy surroundings.
Lunar meteorites are important because they give scientists samples from
other parts of the moon, Cohen said.
The rock, along with about 1,000 other meteorites collected on the same
trip, were sent to Johnson Space Center in Houston, which separates the most
interesting ones and sends them on to the Smithsonian Institution for analysis.
After analysis, the samples go back to Houston, and the Space Center sends
out notification to scientists who might be interested in the rock. The rocks
of interest are broken up and shipped out to the planetary science academic
community, Cohen said.
"About 95 percent of the meteorites we find are ordinary chrondites, from
asteroids, so of the 1,000 we picked up, about 950 were pretty normal," she
said. "This was one of about 50 that were sent on to the Smithsonian - we knew
it was something special when we found it."
With the analysis complete, Cohen plans to apply to get a chunk of the rock
back from Houston.