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Switzerland returns rare Omani meteorites


Muscat: The first batch of Omani meteorites that were in the custody of the Natural History Museum in the Swiss capital Bern was handed over at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture on Wednesday.

The meteorites were handed over as per a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2009 between Oman's Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the museum to study and classify the meteorites of different ages.

The agreement was aimed to preserve the meteorites according to the international standard. The first group includes two rare meteorites that originated from the moon and Mars and dated back to billions of years.

A team of Swiss scientists have arrived on a three-week survey program covering specific areas of the governorates of the Sultanate.

In a statement, Salem bin Muhammad al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary for Heritage Affairs, said, “Receiving rare meteorites is the beginning of the return of meteorites that were collected, classified and studied during the past years with the participation of an Omani team of specialists according to the program of cooperation between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Natural History Museum in Bern, which offers a global benchmark for geological studies.”

Mahrouqi said the receipt of meteorites represents an extension of a series of measures taken since the Department of Geological Heritage at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture came into function.

The activities include the process of listing and assembling all meteorites in the Sultanate and protecting them, and building a database according to a classification program based on the types of meteorites, adding that capacity is being built and developed to manage this important sector of Oman’s geological heritage.

Last year the Undersecreary for Heritage Affairs had signed a scientific cooperation agreement during his visit to the Bren Natural History Museum.

The Oman-Swiss Meteorite Search project began in 2001.  This is when the first search began and by 2016 the project had a collection of more than 6000 meteorite samples which were, “attributed to 1042 single fall events.”

The report titled Meteorites from Oman – an example of a GIS application in Jiddat al Harasis 091meteorite strewnfield published by the project explained, “Earth’s gravitational field attracts nearby material which we call ‘meteoroids’.  When meteoroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere they encounter air molecules which causes them to lose their initial kinetic energy to heat.  Some of those meteoroids undergo fragmentation while descending and form strewnfields.” They are analyzing the mass distribution of strewfield in Oman.

OSMS project has retrieved more than 1042 single event meteorites.  The project uses the meteorites in various applications including GIS mapping to study the spatial distribution and possible patterns.

Oman Observer had earlier reported on the concerns of the Geo Consultancy Centre as meteorites in Oman have also attracted the wrong crowd to the country attempting to smuggle out the precious source as it holds many answers to the understanding of our solar system and accordingly it has a high economic value.  Prior to the Ministry of Heritage and Culture the meteorites was under the Public Authority for Mining.

Oman is also one of the richest countries in terms of the lunar (moon) meteorites and Martian (Mars) meteorites found within its territory.

“Of the 14,775 meteorites found in the central Oman mountains, just four have been identified as lunar and 11 Martian as of June 2014,” according to Dr Mohammed al Kindi, Head of the Geo Consultancy Centre.

In the Najd region of Jabal Samhan, more than 1,782 meteorites have been discovered, including 64 lunar and four Martian.

Oman is No 3 in the world in terms of the presence of this rich wealth. In 2011, the Sultanate accounted for 14 per cent of all the world’s meteorite finds, excluding Antarctica.

The Dhofar and Al Wusta Governorates, especially areas like Jiddat al Harasis, Al Huqf, Jiddat Arkad, Shalim, Sayh al Uhaymir and Ramlat As’Samaha yielded more than 3,600 meteorites as against 1,805 in 2007.

Hot desert meteorite finds amount to 25 per cent of the total number of known samples. They are the second source of meteorites after Antarctica, which accounts for 70 per cent of the total Meteoritic Bulletin Database, according to Meteoritic Society, whose latest documented meteoric findings in Oman was in 2015.

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