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Meteorite that fell to Earth last year reveals secrets of Mars

Last Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 14:31

Washington: A fresh Martian meteorite that landed in the Moroccan desert 14 months ago bears traces of the planet’s unique atmosphere, researchers have revealed.

The Tissint meteorite is providing more information about the red planet.

"Our team matched traces of gases found inside the Tissint meteorite with samples of Mars`` atmosphere collected in 1976 by Viking, NASA``s Mars lander mission," said University of Alberta researcher Chris Herd, who helped in the study of the meteorite.

Herd explained that 600 million years ago the meteorite started out as a fairly typical volcanic rock on the surface of Mars when it was launched off the planet by the impact of an asteroid.

"At the instant of that impact with Mars, a shock wave shot through the rock. Cracks and fissures within the rock were sealed instantly by the heat, trapping components of Mars`` atmosphere inside, and forming black, glassy spots," said Herd.

The team estimates that for a period between 700,000 and one million years the rock floated through outer space until July, 2011 when it streaked through Earth``s atmosphere landing in Morocco.

This is only the fifth time a Martian meteorite landing was witnessed.

Herd said that the fact that it was picked up just a few months after landing and was not subjected to weathering or contamination on this planet is the key reason why this meteorite is so important.

The Martian weathering involved water, which means water was present on the surface of Mars within the past few hundred million years.

But this meteorite sample, Herd said, does not carry any evidence the water supported any life forms.

"Because the Martian rock was subject to such intense heat any water borne microbial life forms that may have existed deep within cracks of the rock would have been destroyed," said Herd.


First Published: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 14:08

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