The Atacama Desert: A preferential arid region for the recovery of meteorites—Find location features and strewnfield distribution patterns

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Some terrestrial areas have favorable climatic and geomorphologic features that permit the preservation and accumulation of meteorites. The Atacama Desert is among the most important ones. Sixty-two, non-paired, meteorites have been collected in different places of Atacama since the late 19th century to date. Practically all types, classes and groups of meteorites have been recovered. In this work a review of the Atacama meteorites is carried out, listing all past recoveries, determining the principal strewnfield distribution patterns and providing a general overview of the features of the find locations. Principal find locations are concentrated in the Atacama Central Depression. Most of them coincide with ancient mining industries (metallic or non-metallic) or are located near towns, rail stations, tracks or human settlements. Whatever the meteorite find location was, all meteorite samples were collected on the desert surface and normally: (1) showed more than a quarter of their body exposed; (2) underwent some sign of terrestrial weathering; (3) stone meteorites have a brownish desert-varnish on hand specimen; (4) are non-oriented pieces and (5) are commonly members of a greater mass distributed in a certain place. The distribution of find locations in Atacama Desert is not as simple as it would seem on a first approach, as Atacama salt phases (environmental conditions and mineralogical alterations) have a crucial importance on meteorites weathering.
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