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No. 27: May-Jun 1983

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The solar-system dust bin

For hundreds of thousands of years, miscellaneous rocky debris swirling around the sun has been falling upon the icy wastes of Antarctica. The motion of Antarctica's ice sheet carries these meteorites conveyor-belt fashion out towards the encircling seas. But where Antarctic mountains get in the way, the rocky cargo tends to get concentrated. Several thousand meteorites have already been picked up at these favored spots. In just a few brief summers of searching, these massive finds have posed unexpected questions. Here is a sampling.

  1. The terrestrial ages (times since arrival on earth) measure between 1,000 and 700,000 years, implying that the Antarctic ice sheet may be at least 700,000 years old. This is unfortunate for several proposed scenarios of recent catastrophism, which envision an iceless Antarctica.

  2. At least 20 amino acids appear in the more than 40 carbonaceous chondrites picked up with sterile equipment. These meteorites are dated as 4.5 billion years old, or 1 billion years older than the earliest terrestrial life found in the rocks. These finds highlight the old question: Did meteorites seed life on earth?

  3. The much-publicized "lunar" meteorite, supposedly blasted out of the moon's crust by asteroid impact, thence falling to earth, shows little evidence of mechanical shock. If this meteorite, with a composition so similar to the Apollo samples is not from the moon, where did it come from?

(Marvin, Ursula B.; "Extraterrestrials Have Landed on Antarctica," New Scientist, 97:710, 1983.)

Antarctic mountains pick up solar system debris

From Science Frontiers #27, MAY-JUN 1983. 1983-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987