Searching for Extraterrestrial Rocks in Antarctica

In this presentation, professor Burr will discuss her recent experience as a participant in the research expedition on the East Antarctica plateau.

Rocks from space – or meteorites – are a crucial resource in our developing understanding of how our Solar System formed and changed over time. Meteorites fall all over the Earth, but are especially noticeable in Antarctica.

The Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) has been in operation for nearly forty years, and personnel associated with UT have been involved repeatedly throughout those decades. Professor Burr was the most recent ANSMET participant from the university.

Although not a meteoritic, professor Burr is devoted to serving her scientific community and extreme outdoor adventure; therefore, she accepted an invitation to join four other scientists selected to participate in the 2014-2015 ANMSET season, in the search for meteorites on the East Antarctica plateau. While on location she lived for five weeks in a two-person tent (nine by nine square feet), resting on ice at a temperature of minus forty degrees Fahrenheit.

She and her teammates swept blue ice fields and combed moraines to find rock from space. They were able to collect and return to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, almost 600 meteorites. Remarkably, the team set a record of 171 rocks collected in a single day. These rocks from space will be made available to the planetary geology community for analysis and their findings will inform scientific understanding of the conditions under which these rocks formed and, by extension, the conditions in the early Solar System.