The densest meteorite collection area in hot deserts: The San Juan meteorite field (Atacama Desert, Chile)

Jérôme Gattacceca, Millarca Valenzuela, Minoru Uehara, A. J.Timothy Jull, Marlène Giscard, Pierre Rochette, Régis Braucher, Clement Suavet, Matthieu Gounelle, Diego Morata, Pablo Munayco, Michèle Bourot-Denise, Didier Bourles, François Demory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


We describe the geological, morphological, and climatic setting of the San Juan meteorite collection area in the Central Depression of the Atacama Desert (Chile). Our recovery activities yielded 48 meteorites corresponding to a minimum of 36 different falls within a 3.88km2 area. The recovery density is in the range 9-12fallskm-2 depending on pairing, making it the densest among meteorite collection areas in hot deserts. This high meteorite concentration is linked to the long-standing hyperaridity of the area, the stability of the surface pebbles (> Ma), and very low erosion rates of surface pebbles (approximately 30cmMa-1 maximum). The San Juan meteorite population is characterized by old terrestrial ages that range from zero to beyond 40ka, and limited weathering compared with other dense collection areas in hot desert. Chemical weathering in San Juan is slow and mainly controlled by the initial porosity of meteorites. As in the Antarctic and other hot deserts, there is an overabundance of H chondrites and a shortage of LL chondrites compared with the modern falls population, suggesting a recent (< few ka) change in the composition of the meteorite flux to Earth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1276-1287
Number of pages12
JournalMeteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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