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Space & Astronomy

Oldest Mars meteorite found in the Sahara

November 25, 2013 | Comment icon 6 comments



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 (6)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by pallidin 8 years ago
Nice find!
Comment icon #2 Posted by paperdyer 8 years ago
Yes it is! SyFy will have a movie out based on this shortly.
Comment icon #3 Posted by mumanster 8 years ago
How do they know where the rock came from?
Comment icon #4 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 8 years ago
How do they know where the rock came from? Because it is has a chemical signature consistent with that of Mars.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Sundew 8 years ago
How do they know where the rock came from? I'll admit to being ignorant of how sophisticated the instruments are/were on the various probes we sent to Mars. I would assume a mass spectrometer could give you the chemistry of Martian rocks and/or soil and then could be compared to the meteorite sample, just not sure if one was part of the instrument package. Failing that, I would have no idea how they would know with certainty the rock originated on Mars, since we have no physical samples that have been collected from the red planet for comparison. And also, would rocks on Mars necessarily be of... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 8 years ago
If someone knows the answer or has a link I would be interested. How do we know that these rocks come from Mars?It is more difficult to prove that there are meteorites from Mars because no astronauts or spacecraft have yet brought material back to Earth. But Martian meteorites have clues to their origin buried inside. There are small pockets of glass in these rocks, and trapped inside the glass is gas that has the same composition as Mars' atmosphere. The glass formed when the rocks were ejected from the surface by impact. The shock of the collision melted bits of the rock. The melt cooled ver... [More]


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