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Department of Mineral Sciences

Izalco Volcano

The NSF Division of Polar Programs, with decades of experience in exploring the harsh Antarctic environment, provides support for the ANSMET. Currently, the ANSMET program is run by Ralph Harvey, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University. Each year, teams of four to eight scientists work together collecting meteorites in remote field locations for about six weeks during the Austral summer (Nov-Jan). Their primary goal is to recover an unbiased and uncontaminated sampling of meteorites. Systematic searches are conducted as a series of 30m wide parallel transects by snowmobile on areas of snow-free "blue ice." If the concentration is high, transects by snowmobile are replaced by searching on foot, ensuring the recovery of meteorites as small as 1 centimeter in diameter. Many stranding surfaces are large enough to require several seasons in the same area.

At the end of the season, the meteorites are shipped frozen to the Meteorite Curation Facility at the NASA Johnson Space Center, where they are dried, chipped, sawed, weighed, and photographed in controlled atmosphere cabinets formerly used to process lunar samples. The Smithsonian Institution and NASA, as experts in curation, provide for the classification, storage, and distribution of Antarctic meteorites.

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Meteorite hunters

Smithsonian in Antarctica

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