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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
November 15, 2004
Volume 40, Number 4

Cohen discovers rare meteorites

By Steve Carr

When Research Assistant Professor Barbara Cohen was selected to be a part of one of two teams to search for meteorites last summer in the Antarctica (winter in the United States), little did she know that the teams’ findings would be rare. The expedition 10 months ago was part of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program, funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Barbara Cohen was on the team that discovered this Martian meteorite in the Antarctic.

One of the samples, MIL 03346, was a Martian meteorite, one
of only 31 ever found and identified as coming from the Red Planet. Another rare finding was a lunar meteorite, LAP 03632, one of about 30 known meteorites from the Moon. Cohen’s team discovered the lunar rock, while a second team on the same expedition discovered the Martian meteorite.

“Any Martian meteorite found is significant because there are so few that have ever been found,” said Cohen. “For example, if you had only two dozen Earth rocks, how much would you know about the Earth?

“MIL 03346 was the first meteorite examined by the Johnson Space Center and Smithsonian Institute. Part of the side was broken and it exposed the inside, so the team knew it was something very unusual. It was most exciting thing we found.”

The nakhlite meteorite, a piece of a Martian lava flow, was found in the Miller Range of the Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica.It was about eight centimeters and weighed .715 kilograms. It is the first Martian meteorite found by the ANSMET expeditions since 1994. Only seven nakhlite samples have been discovered. Cohen’s team was at the La Paz Ice Field, about 200 km from the South Pole, when they found the lunar rock. Weighing 92 grams, it is made of basalt from a lava flow on the moon. It is paired with four other lunar meteorites found during the previous ANSMET season. Prior to that, the last lunar meteorite found by ANSMET was in 1994.

Editor’s note: Read the story of Barbara Cohen’s expedition to Antarctica at: http://www.unm.edu/news/04-05-10/antarctica.htm