The meteorite is thought to be 4.4 billion years old. Image Credit: NASA
A rock discovered in the Sahara desert has turned out to be the oldest Martian meteorite ever found.
In the not-too-distant future scientists hope to be able to send a spacecraft to Mars that will be capable of picking up rock and soil samples and returning them to the Earth for study. In the meantime however Mars has obligingly sent a few pieces of rock in our direction for free and one in particular has turned out to be far more interesting than previously believed.
Nicknamed "Black Beauty" due to its dark and glossy appearance, a meteorite originally recovered from the Sahara desert and thought to date back 2.2 billion years has turned out to be much older, dating back up to 4.4 billion years when Mars was in its infancy.
Only around 100 Martian meteorites have ever been found and most of these are relatively recent, dating back only a few million years. By contrast, Black Beauty is able to provide scientists with a unique first-hand glimpse at what Mars might have been like back when it was only 100 million years old.
"The crust of Mars must have differentiated really quickly, rather than gradually over time. There was a big volcanic episode all over the surface, which then crusted up, and after that the volcanism dropped dramatically," said lead author Prof Munir Humayan. "This is a very exciting period of time - if there were to be life on Mars, it would have originated at this particular time."
Source: BBC News | Comments (7)