IS A BANK OF METEORITES
discoveries of extraterrestrial meteorites in Oman prove that
the Sultanate is a treasure trove of natural history. The country
prides itself on not only spectacular seashells, gemstones, pebbles,
minerals and caves but also on extraterrestrial materials that
are much sought after by geology and astronomy buffs alike.
Meteorite in the Omani desert
The discovery of several rare meteorites, including a host of
Martian and Lunar rocks, in the deserts of Oman recently has lent
international recognition to the Sultanate as a promising destination
for scientific study.
The geology of Oman offers a cross
section of almost all the rocks found in the world. What is more
it contains rare extraterrestrial meteorites as well that open
up new avenues of research on other planets and heavenly bodies.
View of Mars meteorite SaU 094
on Omani desert soil. Maximum size of the meteorite is seven cm
As a geological wonderland Oman holds out exciting opportunities
for finding meteorites. The timeless beauty and scientific value
of meteorites holds a fascination for everyone. Recent studies
carried out by the Directorate General of Minerals (DGM) in association
with Swiss geologists show that Oman's meteorite recoveries provide
a reliable and solid base for research on extraterrestrial materials,
particularly the Mars.
For the geologists of Oman
and Switzerland this fascination has marked the dawn of a new
era of research on the origin and development of Mars and the
possibility of life on the red planet.
Meteorite researchers showing Mars
meteorite SaU 094 to reporters and photographers
The idea of discovery of and research on meteorites in Oman's
deserts came about following the recovery of 142 meteorites in
a two-week expedition to Oman's deserts of central and southern
region, organised by the DGM in January this year.
The presence of a rare Martian meteorite, namely Sayh al Uhaymir
094 (SaU 094) in a central Oman desert, and many other rare rocks
confirmed that the meteorite density in Interior Oman is unusually
high more than one meteorite per square kilometre.
Each rock can be an exciting discovery with a special story to
tell you about the history of the Earth or other extraterrestrial
bodies. SaU 094 is, besides a few Antarctic finds, the only Mars
meteorite fully available for scientific studies.
The expedition concluded that Oman could justifiably boast some
of the largest and most spectacular meteorite collection areas
in the world.
The team, which included
four geologists from the Natural History Museum, University of
Berne, Switzerland Dr Beda Hofmann, Dr Marc Hauser, Dr
Edwin Gnos, Loren Moser and an Omani geologist Ali Al Katheri,
has now decided to survey all the favourable areas of Oman for
the potential meteorite recovery from October this year.
Omani geologist Ali Al Katheri
is documenting a meteorite close to the find location of the Mars
According to Dr Hofmann since the year 2000 several precious meteorites
have been discovered in Oman. But many of them are not available
for scientific study because they are in unknown private hands.
The most prized finds among them were Martian meteorites, which
have opened a window on the red planet. Martian meteorites from
Oman deserts offer new and extremely cost effective avenues for
research on the red planet until Mars Odyssey 2001 successfully
brings some rocks from the red planet after about 10 years (i.e.
in 2010) on its return to the Earth.
Rocks from Mars start their journey towards Earth when a meteorite
from elsewhere hits the Martian surface, scattering rocks into
space at high speed.
They eventually reach the Earth, sometimes after millions of years.
Initial surveys show that the many precious rocks found in Oman
are a treasure house of not only the earth's geological history
but also of the neighbouring planets and satellites such as the
Mars and the Moon.
Unlike in the past when the meteorite search was confined to the
frozen continent of Antarctica, now hot deserts in the Sahara,
the Nullarbor Plain (Australia) and Oman have become important
sources for meteorites.
So far 22,000 meteorites have been discovered in the world. Of
these, 180 meteorites have been found in Oman alone. Of the 22,000
meteorites discovered worldwide, only 18 are Martian meteorites.
Of the 180 meteorites found in the Sultanate, six are Lunar and
five are Martian meteorites with a host of rare finds.
This has significantly raised Oman's profile as an important source
of rare meteorites, according to geologists of the DGM and Berne
University of Switzerland, who are participating in the meteorite
Worldwide there is only limited information about
weathering of non-Antarctic meteorites and very little about the
details of interactions between weathering meteorites and the
geochemistry of soils.
Cross section of the Mars meteorite SaU 094 obtained
by X-ray tomography. Bright areas represent cavities containing
special gases, a vital clue to life on Mars
Although deserts are known together with Antarctica, as areas
where large numbers of meteorites may be recovered during systematic
search campaigns, there are presently few detailed studies on
the link between the surface age and meteorite densities. Oman
offers the possibility to conduct detailed studies on the distribution
of meteorites in the field and on their interaction with terrestrial
Since no single institution, let alone single investigator, could
begin to realise the scientific potential of these extraterrestrial
specimens, Berne University geologists are collaborating with
many other institutions for uncovering the secrets inherent in
the Omani meteorites.
One of the biggest concerns bothering the meteorite experts is
that most of the meteorites are being collected by private collectors
for sale in the open market.
According to a note by Ron Baalke,
a geologist, in Meteoritical Bulletin "While attending the
Gem and Fossil show in Coasta Mesa, California on 20 May, 2000
he found that there were a number of new meteorites found in Oman
being sold, including some of the rarer types such as LL6, eucrites
Microscopic image of the SaU
094 Mars meteorite
One of the meteorite dealers selling the Oman meteorites informed
that one of the Oman meteorite, named Dhofar 019, was a new Mars
meteorite. The dealer said the Dhofar 019 meteorite was not at
the Costa Mesa show, but about 800 grams of it will be on the
The Martian meteorite of Dhofar region (Dhofar 019), a brownish
grey stone, weighing 1056 grams was found on 24 January 2000.
Another Martian meteorite, Sayh al Uhaymir 051, was found in Oman
on 1 August 2000. A 436 gram stone was found close to the locations
of SaU 005 and 008. All three samples may be paired. The five
Martian meteorites have major intrinsic value to science as well
as considerable commercial value.
Dhofar, it may be noted, is also emerging as an important area
for meteorite collections. One Mars and two Moon meteorites have
been found in Dhofar so far among a host of other precious extraterrestrial
rocks. Dhofar-081, a lunar meteorite, was found on 29 November
A brownish gray stone of 174 grams, this meteorite holds out important
research avenues for geologists. Another lunar meteorite, Dhofar-280
was discovered on 14 April 2001, according to Meteoritical Bulletin.
A gray stone weighing 251.2 grams, Dhofar-280 was found close
to Dhofar-081 and is similar in texture and mineral chemistry.
According to geologists noble gases found in the lunar meteorites
of Oman offer interesting research possibilities on these precious
Adapted from Oman Observer. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for contents.