A Belgian-Dutch scientific team including researchers from the Université Libres de Brussel (ULB) and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) has developed for the first time a “treasure map” that reveals where meteorites can be found in Antarctica. It is estimated that there are 300,000 meteorites on the surface of the ice cap.
Veronica Tolinar, a doctoral student at ULB, is the study’s lead author and used new detection techniques, such as drones and satellite imagery, to develop the treasure map, and correlate it with algorithms. In this way, it can indicate areas where meteorites can be found with a high probability. The map is said to be 80 percent accurate.
“We found many meteorite-rich areas that were never visited and that are relatively close to research stations,” says Tollenaar. When meteorites strike the Antarctic ice sheet, they usually become embedded. Then it is carried out to sea by the ice stream, unless there are mountains hidden under the ice. Mountains push meteorites to the surface in so-called areas of blue ice.
“Through our analyzes, we have learned that satellite observations of temperature, ice flow velocity, surface area, and geometry are good indicators for predicting the location of meteorite-rich regions,” says Tollenaar.
By linking this to a machine learning algorithm, the researchers were able to identify areas where there is a high probability of meteorites. The results of the study were published in the popular science journal Science Advances.
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