Water-Rich Meteorite Originated in Martian Crust

Posted January 4th, 2013 at 1:45 pm (UTC-5)
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A piece of Mars that fell to Earth and was found in the Sahara desert in 2011 has revealed surprising new details about the Red Planet.

Researchers from the University of New Mexico say the Martian rock represents a new class of meteorite they believe came from Mars's crust. The scientists have determined that the 320-gram space rock, nicknamed “Black Beauty,” was formed more than two billion years ago, making it one of the oldest Mars meteorites ever found.

Most significantly, it contains more water than any of the other 100 or so meteorites known to have come from the Red Planet, raising the possibility that life could have existed on ancient Mars.

The researchers say the Black Beauty meteorite has given them a glimpse of ancient surface and environmental conditions on Mars that no other meteorite has ever offered. The rock's mineral composition, mainly fragments of feldspar and pyroxene, suggests it was blasted into space by a Martian volcanic explosion. The chemistry is similar to what NASA's robotic rovers and orbiting satellites have found during their recent explorations of the Martian surface.