The Dynamic Earth View Multimedia Version

Main Menu >  The Solar System >  Discovering Meteorites >  Where Do We Find Meteorites?
TITLE: Where Do We Find Meteorites?

[Photo: World Map]

Meteorites fall everywhere on Earth. Most plunge into the oceans that cover three-quarters of the surface and are lost. Even those that fall on land can be difficult to recognize unless you see them hit the ground.

The best places to look for meteorites have few Earth rocks and little or no vegetation to camouflage them. That's why glaciers, deserts, and rock-free plains are prime meteorite hunting grounds.

See caption at right.

More meteorites have been discovered in Antarctica than anywhere else on Earth. Not only are meteorites relatively easy to recognize against the ice, but the moving glacial ice actually concentrates the rocks in a few, small areas. As a bonus, the Antarctic deep freeze helps protect meteorites from the effects of weathering for thousands of years.


See caption at right.

The first Antarctic meteorites were found by Japanese scientists in 1969. Beginning in the 1970s, the United States and Japan each sponsored numerous expeditions to the continent and brought back thousands of meteorites.

The United States's Antarctic Search for Meteorites program falls under the joint sponsorship of the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Smithsonian Institution.


See caption at right.

How are the meteorites concentrated? Over time, many meteorites land on a glacier and are buried by accumulating snow and ice. Like a slow-moving river, the glacier transports the meteorites until hills or mountains cause the flowing ice to buckle or flow up and over the obstacle. Wind erodes the uplifted ice and strands the cargo of meteorites on the surface.

Bottom Navigation Bar


Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Mineral Sciences website Credits