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The Secrets of a Martian Meteor

The Secrets of a Martian Meteor

It is 2.1 billion years old, comes from Mars, and at the moment, it is one of the only samples of Martian rocks to ever be studied here on Earth. And while there are still many lingering questions about the history of the red planet and its surface, the meteorite known as NWA (Northwest Africa) 7034 can tell us quite some things about Mars during its last geologic epoch known as the “amazonian.” As researchers from the University of New Mexico discovered, it actually contains more evidence of water than any other meteor from Mars currently known (6000 parts per million).  Even as the Mars curiosity rover continues to amaze observers back on Earth with every new real-time discovery it makes, turns out – ancient rocks that originate from Mars can also still be useful tools towards understanding a planet that seems to have had many similarities to our own.

The presence of water in the meteorite also points to other more eye-opening possibilities about life on Mars several billion years ago.  As lead author Carl Agee explains it, “Perhaps most exciting, is that the high water content could mean there was an interaction of the rocks with surface water either from volcanic magma, or from fluids from impacting comets during that time.” An exciting and potentially revealing development that illustrates just how rich in information the few meteorites we have from Mars on Earth can be.

Besides NAW 7034, other known Martian meteorites include the Shergotty, Nakhla, and Chassigny family (SNC).  These rocks actually fell to the Earth much more recently. The Shergotty, for example, landed in Bihar, India, in August of 1865 and was immediately retrieved by witnesses.  This family of rocks is composed of solidified volcanic magma dating back over 4 billion years.  Although they come from Mars as well, unlike NAW 734, they don’t have the geologic diversity that reveals many interesting aspects of the Mars of long ago.

Source: Carnegie Institution for Science

Photo: jtaylor14368 / flickr

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