(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) The discovery of several meteorites, including a host of Martian and lunar rocks, in the deserts of Oman in the recent past 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 that open up new avenues of research regarding planets like Mars and other heavenly bodies. ''In 2011, the sultanate contributed around 16 per cent of all the world's meteorite finds, excluding Antarctica,'' said Professor Sobhi Nasir, head of the department of Earth Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University (SQU).As a geological wonderland Oman holds out exciting opportunities for finding meteorites. ''The gravel plains in the Dhofar and Al Wusta regions of Oman, south of the sandy deserts of the Rub' al Khali, had yielded about 5,000 meteorites as of mid-2009. Included among these are a large number of lunar and Martian meteorites (14), making Oman a particularly important area both for scientists and collectors,'' he said.In 2003, there were only 31 Martian meteorites known worldwide, three of which were found in Oman. Lunar meteorites are abundant too in the country with about 65 finds, representing about 35 per cent of the world's total. The lunar meteorite Dho 025 dated at 500-600 kyr (stands for 1000 years) is so far the oldest meteorite fall in Oman.Meteorites are pieces of rock and metal that fall on Earth and are the only available physical materials that allow direct study of the original dust from which the solar system formed. ''Only NASA and few other countries like Russia have access to materials procured directly from the space through their various explorations, while rest of the scientific community depends on meteorites scattered around places like Oman.''Nasir said that there is big money involved in commercial trade of meteorites and that is why the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) in the last couple of years has stipulated strict regulations while beefing up security on borders and airports. ''Now, export of any kind of rock is prohibited unless authorised by the relevant authority,'' he said.He said that a Martian or Lunar meteorite can fetch anywhere between US2,000-US10,000 per gram (RO770-RO3,849), while even ordinary ones can command US2 (769bz) per gram. ''As meteorites are heavy, small pieces weigh in kilogrammes increasing the value per piece.''According to Nasir, there is great potential for further finds in Oman as only two per cent of the total area has been explored, while 98 per cent still lies unsurveyed. ''The possibility of finding meteorites ranges from one to two per square km. Imagine the number if all the areas are surveyed,'' said Nasir.SQU in collaboration with the Office of the Advisor to His Majesty the Sultan for Cultural Affairs, MoCI, Alberta and West Ontario University, Canada, is undertaking a detailed study. Field works are being carried out for further collections.Oman's Mining LawThe Mining Law issued by Royal Decree No 27/2003 prohibits the practice of all rock and mineral and exploratory activities and trading in the same without obtaining permission from the Directorate General of Minerals.