A team of international researchers in Antarctica has managed to unearth a huge meteorite containing the oldest material in the solar system.

The space rock weighs 16.7 pounds (7.57 kg) and is one of the many meteorites that have been found in Antarctica over the years. The meteorite is about the size of a gourd and was discovered on January 5, when the team was on an 11-day expedition.

According to the scientists involved in the expedition, it is one of the largest meteorites ever found on the continent.

"To put the meteorite's size in perspective, of the 45,000 meteorites retrieved from Antarctica over the last century, only 100 are this size or larger," per a release by the Chicago Field Museum, which was part of the expedition.

However, a research scientist at the Field Museum, Maria Valdes, adds that size does not really matter in such cases.

She said: "Size doesn't necessarily matter when it comes to meteorites, and even tiny micrometeorites can be incredibly scientifically valuable, but of course, finding a big meteorite like this one is rare, and really exciting."

Scientists have recovered about 45,000 meteorites in Antarctica over the last 100 years. But only around 100 of them were as large as the current one. These space rocks are believed to have come from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, according to a report in The Independent.

They help scientists understand the workings of our solar system as they are made up of ancient materials and minerals.

A 2016 study conducted by researchers from the University of Manchester claimed that a pool of iron-rich meteorites may be buried beneath Antarctica.

The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggested that meteorites rich in iron may be trapped underneath Antarctic ice. These rocks would have crash-landed on Earth during the early solar system formation but have since been imprisoned underneath 20 to 30 cm. sheets of ice.

research stations in Antarctica
One of the four Australian research stations in Antarctica. Photo/Bignoter at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons