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Radar Spots a Buried Meteorite

October 21, 2006|From the Associated Press

Scientists were excited to pull a 154-pound meteorite embedded in a Kansas wheat field -- especially because of the way they unearthed it.

The team used groundpenetrating radar technology to locate the mass 4 feet under a meteorite-strewn field Monday.

"It validates the technique so we can use something similar to that instrument when we go to Mars," said Patricia H. Reiff, director of the Rice Space Institute in Houston.

Ground-penetrating radar systems had been used to find smaller meteorites in Antarctica, where ice allows easier penetration of the sonar. But until the Kansas dig, the technology had not been successfully used for ground detection in heavy soils -- like on Mars -- to find meteorites or water.

Even before they had pulled out the pallasite meteorite -- characterized by crystals embedded in iron -- scientific experts at the site were able to debunk prevailing wisdom that the spectacular Brenham meteorite fall occurred 20,000 years ago. Its location in the Pleistocene Epoch soil layer puts that date closer to 10,000 years ago.

Several tons of meteorites have been recovered from the area. This week's find will end up in an exhibit on comets, meteors and asteroids at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

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