352 pieces of meteorites found in Oman this year, bringing the total to 6,558
The collection includes 70 lunar and 17 Martian meteorites
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.
Experts picking up pieces of meteorites from a site in Oman
Dr Ali bin Salim al Rajhi