quarta-feira, 31 de dezembro de 2014

Astronomical Prices of Meteorites in South Korea

SEOUL, Dec 30 (Korea Bizwire) – The 4.5 billion-year-old meteorites that fell in Jinju city, South Korea in March 2013 are having a hard time entering Korean scientific research circles due to their owners’ excessive compensation demands.

The Korean Government is attempting to purchase the meteorites for use in scientific research.

In March 2013, four meteorites weighing 35 kilograms in total fell on a farming site in Jinju. They are as old as the sun, and the first meteorites to land on the Korean peninsula in 71 years.

The Korean Government announced that it would buy the meteorites to benefit Korean scientific research communities, and to prevent the rare celestial objects from being sold to foreign collectors.

However, the current owners of the four meteorites are demanding more than 27 billion won (US$ 24.5 million) in compensation. Meteorites of 35 kilograms are usually sold for around 180 million won (US$ 163,526) on the international market.

The Korean Government offered the owners 350 million won (US$ 318,041), about twice the going marketprice. While the government’s offer was reasonable, the owners have so far refused to accept it. 

Meanwhile, a revised bill related to space development law was passed in a plenary session on December 29. The revised bill contains articles preventing meteorites found in Korea from being taken out of Korea, and also the establishment of a meteorite registration system.

Meteorites found in Korea will be registered by the minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning, and their status will continuously be tracked. The bill will be applied retroactively in the case of the Jinju meteorites.

Source: http://koreabizwire.com/

segunda-feira, 22 de dezembro de 2014

'Coal' found in meteorite points to life on Mars, says Chinese-led research team

Nasa announced last week that its rover had found methane gas on Mars, and around the time a Chinese-led team of scientists has reported finding an organic, coal-like substance in a meteorite knocked off the Red Planet. Both discoveries are prompting debate about life on earth's neighbour.

The researchers found traces of organic carbon bound to elements such as nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus, in a structure similar to that of coal found on earth. Their findings were detailed in this month's cover article of academic journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

Zhang Jianchao , a co-author of the paper and planetary physicist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Geology and Geophysics, said the team was confident the coal-like substance came from Mars.

"We've spent more than half a year conducting the most stringent … tests," Zhang said.

Tissint, the name of the meteorite in which the substance was found, was knocked off Mars by an asteroid collision more than 700,000 years ago and contained evidence of water on the Red Planet.

The coal-like substance contained high levels of deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen that is rare on earth but abundant on Mars. Some particles were also wrapped in ancient molten rocks formed long before the meteoroid fell to earth, probably at the time of the asteroid collision.

The substance - like coal on earth - was also notable for its lack of the heavy carbon isotope C-13, which suggested that biological activities had produced the high concentration of the lighter carbon isotopes. The finding pointed to the possibility of life on Mars, the scientists said.

Professor Philippe Gillet - a co-author of the paper and director of the Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland - said the findings reignited the debate on whether there was life on Mars.

"Our conclusions are such that they will rekindle the debate as to the possible existence of biological activity on Mars - at least in the past," he said.

Source: scmp.com

sábado, 20 de dezembro de 2014

Meteorite madness in an alien landscape

As the market grows in China, a dedicated band of professionals are risking life and limb searching for extraterrestrial material in the deserts of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Cui Jia reports from Urumqi.

China Daily is publishing a series of reports focusing on efforts that help the country to move forward.

Zhao Yuxian always refers to himself as a "hunter", even though his prey doesn't originate on Earth.

"I'm looking for space rocks that aliens throw at us. Of course, most people call them meteorites," the 31-year-old joked as he spun a wedding ring made from an iron meteorite on his finger. "Meteorites can be as old as the Earth, so a ring made from one is a better way of representing eternity than diamonds."

Although the sky-high prices they fetch at auction has seen public interest in meteorites growing in China in recent years, the dangers associated with finding fragments mean that few people are active hunters.

To his peers in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, a hardcore group of a few dozen professional meteorite hunters who prefer to be known by their nicknames, Zhao is "Falcon". He said the dry climate and flat topography of the nearby Taklimakan Desert make it one of the best places in the world, and certainly the best in China, to find meteorites.

Zhao was still excited when he recalled how in February he and two other hunters discovered a fragment of an iron meteorite in Lop Nur, a dried-out salt lake between the Taklimakan and the Kumtag Desert in Xinjiang. It was the only piece of extraterrestrial material he had found so far this year.

'Another planet'

"Discovering meteorites in the vast and depopulated Gobi, or any desert, is never an easy task, no matter how big they are. Sometimes when I look at the desert landscape I feel as though I am standing on another planet," he said.

Scientists have discovered that most meteorites, solid pieces of debris from sources such as asteroids or comets, survive impact, and most of the ones that land on Earth come from the asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Collisions in the densely crowded belt can cause asteroids to change course and head toward Earth, and because the asteriod belt was formed during the early history of the Solar System, they can be as old as the Earth, if not older.

According to Zhao, it's a little-known fact that meteorites hit the Earth every day.

Although collectively they can be measured in metric tons, many are as small as grains of sand, or are just space dust that no one notices, and meteorites with a diameter of about 1 millimeter hit the Earth about every 30 seconds.

"We hunt meteorites by examining and following the patterns in which they break away from the original meteor. The fragments become smaller and smaller the farther they are from the main point of impact. When we find one piece of meteorite, there are usually others nearby. What we need to do is work out the direction from which they hit our planet," he said.

Although the hunters use metal detectors to search for iron meteorites, which are mainly composed of an alloy of iron and nickel, when the space rock is made of stone, they have nothing to rely on except their eyes.

"When we find a meteorite, the first thing we do is to record its GPS and analyze its position, which can provide clues about which part of it hit Earth first. I am always fascinated by the journey the rock has to take from outer space to Earth," Zhao said. "Then comes the most rewarding part of meteorite hunting: We find it, dig it out, and give it a little kiss."

However, before 2010, Zhao, who has been in and out of the Lop Nur four times so far this year, knew nothing about meteorites. "I heard a news report that a fist-sized meteorite that landed in a village in Qitai couty in Xinjiang in 2009 had been put up for sale for 80 million yuan ($13 million). I became curious to know how a piece of ugly black rock could be that valuable," he said. "That was the time Chinese collectors began to invest in the meteorite market."

Scientific value

The Qitai meteorite was dug out by villagers who witnessed its descent. Because it's possible to pinpoint its point of origin in Earth and the date, it's the most valuable type of meteorite, Zhao said. "These types of meteorite are not only valuable because they sell for much higher prices - their value in terms of scientific research is also extremely high."

In November, an international team of researchers from China, Japan, Germany and Switzerland published research in a scientific journal claiming to have discovered evidence of biological activity inside a meteorite from Mars that landed in the desert in Morocco on July 18, 2011.

The meteorite, known as the "Tissint specimen", contained traces of carbon, and the scientists said the discovery could provide strong evidence that there was once life on the red planet.

In 2013, a meteor rained an estimated 10,000 tons of rock on the Chelyabinsk region of Russia. It was a once-in-a-century event, according to NASA officials, who described the meteor as a "tiny asteroid". The blast was the largest to hit Earth since the 1908 Tunguska incident in Siberia, when a meteorite strike flattened a forest.

The recent event left more than 1,500 injured, mostly with glass wounds from shattered windows, and attracted hunters from around the world, including three from Xinjiang. Sadly, they returned empty-handed, Zhao said.

He now owns a meteorite store in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, called "Sky-traveling Stars", which has also become a club for his fellow hunters.

In addition to selling meteorites he and his peers have found, Zhao also sells space rocks he has purchased from sources in Russia, Argentina and the United States.

"Initially, I was drawn to meteorites because I thought I could make money from them, but now I just love the process of finding them and being surrounded by them. To me, they are the most beautiful and mysterious stones, and they might hold the answers to some of the big questions about life and the universe."

Zhao and two other hunters have decided they will return to Lop Nur on Dec 22, despite a drop in the seasonal nighttime temperature to - 20 C. "We are risking our lives every time we go to hunt in these hostile deserts. Wish me luck - not only that I'll find a few meteorites, but also that I'll return safe and sound."

Source: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/

quinta-feira, 4 de dezembro de 2014

Marcian Tissint Meteorite / New Scientific Discoveries

Did Mars ever have life? Does it still? A meteorite from Mars has reignited
the old debate. An international team that includes scientists from EPFL has
published a paper in the scientific journal Meteoritics and Planetary
Sciences, showing that Martian life is more probable than previously

"So far, there is no other theory that we find more compelling," says
Philippe Gillet, director of EPFL's Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory.
He and his colleagues from China, Japan and Germany performed a detailed
analysis of organic carbon traces from a Martian meteorite, and have
concluded that they have a very probable biological origin. The scientists
argue that carbon could have been deposited into the fissures of the rock
when it was still on Mars by the infiltration of fluid that was rich in
organic matter.

Ejected from Mars after an asteroid crashed on its surface, the meteorite,
named Tissint, fell on the Moroccan desert on July 18, 2011, in view of
several eyewitnesses. Upon examination, the alien rock was found to have
small fissures that were filled with carbon-containing matter. Several
research teams have already shown that this component is organic in nature.
But they are still debating where the carbon came from.

Maybe biological, but not from our planet

Chemical, microscopic and isotope analysis of the carbon material led the
researchers to several possible explanations of its origin. They established
characteristics that unequivocally excluded a terrestrial origin, and showed
that the carbon content were deposited in the Tissint's fissures before it
left Mars.

The researchers challenged previously described views (Steele et al.,
Science, 2012) proposing that the carbon traces originated through the
high-temperature crystallization of magma. According to the new study, a
more likely explanation is that liquids containing organic compounds of
biological origin infiltrated Tissint's "mother" rock at low temperatures,
near the Martian surface.

These conclusions are supported by several intrinsic properties of the
meteorite's carbon, e.g. its ratio of carbon-13 to carbon-12. This was found
to be significantly lower than the ratio of carbon-13 in the CO2 of Mars's
atmosphere, previously measured by the Phoenix and Curiosity rovers.
Moreover, the difference between these ratios corresponds perfectly with
what is observed on Earth between a piece of coal - which is biological in
origin - and the carbon in the atmosphere. The researchers note that this
organic matter could also have been brought to Mars when very primitive
meteorites - carbonated chondrites - fell on it. However, they consider this
scenario unlikely because such meteorites contain very low concentrations of
organic matter.

"Insisting on certainty is unwise, particularly on such a sensitive topic,"
warns Gillet. "I'm completely open to the possibility that other studies
might contradict our findings. However, our conclusions are such that they
will rekindle the debate as to the possible existence of biological activity
on Mars - at least in the past."

David R. Vann, Ph.D.
Department of Earth and Environmental Science
The University of Pennsylvania
240 S. 33rd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104