Plucking a sample from the Antarctic ice. The meteorites ANSMET finds may have fallen into the Antarctic snow thousands (if not millions) of years ago. The region’s katabatic winds scour away layers of ice, exposing these space rocks. Photo by Nina Lanza
Science Friday airs on WSQX January 29, 2016 from 2-4pm.
In this episode, we venture to Antarctica in search of space rocks. Plus, an update on the Zika virus, and a tale of another search for an unseen planet in our solar system. This week, you have to listen to this interview – Nina Lanza knows space rocks. In her day job as a staff scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, she operates the Curiosity Rover’s ChemCam, using a rock-vaporizing laser to analyze the Martian surface. But as of last week, Lanza was having a very different kind of encounter with space rocks: she was picking them up off of the Antarctic ice. She reports back from six weeks scouring the antarctic ice for meteorites.
For the past six weeks, Lanza has been a rookie member of the ANSMET (the Antarctic Search for Meteorites) 2015-2016 field team. For 40 years, the project (run out of Case Western Reserve University) has sent teams of scientists to the bottom of the globe to recover meteorites from all over the solar system, including chunks of the moon, comets, even Mars. After recovering a total of 569 meteorites with her team, Lanza checks in with Ira about the finds, and shares a few audio postcards from the field.
Diary of a Meteorite Hunter: When we heard Nina Lanza was headed into the Antarctic deep field, we asked her to record a few notes, musings, and sounds from her journey.
1. When Lanza received her Ski-Doo, she found it came with a name. And quite a few Hello Kitty stickers.
2. Most of us have the luxury of access to running water, of any temperature, at any time. Not so in the Antarctic deep field.
3. Out meteorite hunting, Lanza spots an unusual rock.
4. When you’re camped in Antarctica, Robert Service’s Yukon poems take on new meaning. The ANSMET team gathers for a reading of the poet’s “Sam McGee,” by mountaineer (and 35-year ANSMET veteran) John Schutt.
5. Every night, the team read aloud from Shackleton’s and Amundsen’s journal entries from the corresponding day. “It really puts our experience into perspective. It’s changed so little,” Lanza says. Here, mountaineer Brian Rougeux reads from Shackleton’s journal.
6. Lanza answers your most pressing question: How do you “go” in the field? Bonus: Bathroom reading of Antarctic explorers revealed!