352 pieces of me­te­orites found in Oman this year, bring­ing the to­tal to 6,558

The col­lec­tion in­cludes 70 lu­nar and 17 Mar­tian me­te­orites

Muscat Daily - - NATION -

Oman has been known for its large me­te­orite col­lec­tion and the pos­si­bil­ity of sev­eral thou­sands ly­ing ex­posed in the deserts across the coun­try. This year, 352 pieces of me­te­orites have been found, weigh­ing about 53kg, bring­ing the to­tal of me­te­orites dis­cov­ered in Oman to 6,558, with a to­tal weight of 4,775kg, ac­cord­ing to the Pub­lic Au­thor­ity for Min­ing (PAM).

What is re­mark­able is that the Omani col­lec­tion con­tains 70 pieces of lu­nar me­te­orites and the prized pos­ses­sion of 17 Mar­tian me­te­orites, both of which are rare com­modi­ties and of ex- treme sci­en­tific value be­cause they are the only solid ma­te­rial avail­able from outer space open­ing up new av­enues of re­search re­gard­ing plan­ets like Mars.

Dr Ali bin Salim al Ra­jhi, direc­tor gen­eral of Re­search and Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­veys, PAM, said that most me­te­orites found in the sul- tanate are frag­ments of as­ter­oids that broke apart long ago in the as­ter­oid belt, lo­cated be­tween Mars and Jupiter. Such frag­ments or­bit the Sun for some time - of­ten mil­lions of years - be­fore col­lid­ing with Earth.

Dr Ra­jhi added that a joint sci­en­tific team has been formed be­tween PAM and Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum in Bern, Switzer­land to col­lect, study, pre­serve and clas­sify me­te­orites found in Oman.

“These me­te­orites con­tain im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion on how our so­lar sys­tem was formed as they con­tain in­for­ma­tion about chem­i­cal re­ac­tions and phys­i­cal forces that pre­ceded the for­ma­tion of Earth. The me­te­ors may also en­able us to shed light on the ori­gins of life on Earth.”

With over 14 per cent of all the world’s me­te­orite finds, Oman has been at the fore­front of sci­en­tific stud­ies re­lated to me­te­orites. The dis­cov­ery of sev­eral me­te­orites, in­clud­ing a host of Mar­tian and lu­nar rocks, in the deserts of Oman in the re­cent past has lent in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion to the sul­tanate as a promis­ing des­ti­na­tion for sci­en­tific study. The largest me­te­orite found in Oman so far is about 200kg.

Ac­cord­ing to Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NASA), most me­te­orites found on Earth are peb­ble to fist size, but some are larger than a build­ing. It is es­ti­mated that 44 tonnes of me­te­oritic ma­te­rial falls on the Earth every day. Sev­eral me­te­ors per hour can usu­ally be seen on any given night. They also es­ti­mate be­tween 36 and 166 me­te­orites larger than 10g fall on Earth per mil­lion square kilo­me­tres per year.

As there is big money in­volved in com­mer­cial trade of me­te­orites, the Min­istry of Com­merce and In­dus­try has stip­u­lated strict reg­u­la­tions while beef­ing up se­cu­rity on bor­ders and air­ports.

A Mar­tian or lu­nar me­te­orite can fetch any­where be­tween US$2,000-US$10,000 per gram (RO770-RO3,849), while even or­di­nary ones can com­mand US$2 (769bz) per gram.

(Sup­plied pho­tos)

Ex­perts pick­ing up pieces of me­te­orites from a site in Oman

Dr Ali bin Salim al Ra­jhi

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