Discovery of Mars Rock in the Sahara Desert Provides New Insights into the Red Planet’s Habitability
Curtin University is studying a piece of a Martian meteorite found on Earth in the Moroccan Sahara Desert in 2011 and originally reported in 2013.
Experts from Australia’s Curtin University say scientists are close to knowing when Mars was habitable, who claim to have uncovered evidence.
Specialists were examining a fragment of a Martian meteorite found on Earth in the Moroccan Sahara desert in 2011 and originally reported in 2013.
According to the scientists’ research published in the journal Science Advances, the rock from Mars, known as NWA 7034 or “black beauty”, weighs 320 grams and contains information about the early existence of the red planet.
(NWA 7034, often known as “Black Beauty”; NASA image)
“It’s a unique gift from Mars”
According to lead author Morgan Cox, this rock, from a collection of fragmented rock shards and minerals, mostly basalt, is a treasure trove of information about the damage caused by meteorite impacts on Mars.
This grain is undoubtedly a unique gift from Mars. High pressure shock deformation has never been observed in Black Beauty minerals before.
The discovery of shock damage in a 4.45 billion-year-old Martian zircon adds to our understanding of the dynamical processes that influenced the surface of early Mars, as Cox said in a paper for the Curtin University.
“Shock deformation” to which Cox refers is the slight damage induced in rock by shock waves released after an impact.
The rock analyzed in this research was found to have traces of the mineral zircon, which crystallizes from magma and is considered a “geochronometer”, which records elapsed time.
Experts say ‘shocked’ zircons can only be discovered on Earth in impact craters like Vredefort in South Africa, Sudbury in Canada and Chicxulub in Mexico.
The last is where the dinosaur killing event occurred, resulting in a mass extinction.
In a paper, co-author Dr Aaron Cavosie said that previous studies of zircon in Martian meteorites suggested circumstances suitable for life may have existed 4.2 billion years ago due to the absence of substantial impact damage.
Another reason these findings are important is that scientists believe Mars must have been habitable much later than previously thought.
The window of habitability must have coincided with water on Mars 3.9 to 3.7 billion years ago.
Follow-up research remains to be determined when and where life existed on Mars in the past.
The meteorite was crushed by humans
In 2011, the original Black Beauty meteorite, weighing 319.8 grams, was discovered in the Sahara Desert.
The meteorite quickly proved to be something extraordinary, and it now sells for around $10,000 per gram.
Professor Martin Bizzarro was able to buy 44 grams of Black Beauty a year ago thanks to the support of several funding sources and the exchange of meteorites from the museum’s collection.
“One of the big challenges was that the zircons in Black Beauty are extremely small. This required a brave strategy: we crushed our precious meteorite. Or to be precise: we crushed 5 grams. Today, I am Glad we chose this strategy. It released seven zircons, one of which is the oldest known zircon on Mars. And based on the zircons and their hafnium content, it can now be concluded that the crystallization of the surface of Mars was extremely fast: Already 20 million years after the formation of the solar system, Mars had a solid crust that could potentially support oceans and possibly life.
He added that zircon is an extremely hard mineral that is perfect for providing exact ages.
In this context, zircons can be used to provide a chronological framework for understanding the history of the creation of the Martian crust.
Zircon also functions as a small time capsule, storing information about the environment in which it formed and when it formed.
In this example, a time capsule containing hafnium from the earliest crust of Mars, which existed about 100 million years before the formation of the oldest Black Beauty zircon.
As a result, Mars got a head start on Earth, whose solid crust did not emerge until much later.
To achieve this goal, however, a certain level of bravery was required.