Water rich meteorite linked to Mars' crust identified

Washington, January 4 (ANI): NASA-funded researchers have found that the Martian surface or crust contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites from unknown origins.

This new class of meteorite was found in 2011 in the Sahara Desert. Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, and nicknamed "Black Beauty," it weighs approximately 11 ounces (320 grams).

After more than a year of intensive study, a team of U.S. scientists determined the meteorite formed 2.1 billion years ago during the beginning of the most recent geologic period on Mars, known as the Amazonian.

"The age of NWA 7034 is important because it is significantly older than most other Martian meteorites," Mitch Schulte, program scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said.

"We now have insight into a piece of Mars' history at a critical time in its evolution," he said.

The meteorite is an excellent match for surface rocks and outcrops NASA has studied remotely via Mars rovers and Mars-orbiting satellites. NWA 7034's composition is different from any previously studied Martian meteorite.

"The contents of this meteorite may challenge many long held notions about Martian geology," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said.

"These findings also present an important reference frame for the Curiosity rover as it searches for reduced organics in the minerals exposed in the bedrock of Gale Crater," he said.

NWA 7034 is made of cemented fragments of basalt, rock that forms from rapidly cooled lava. The fragments are primarily feldspar and pyroxene, most likely from volcanic activity.

This unusual meteorite's chemistry matches that of the Martian crust as measured by NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers and Mars Odyssey Orbiter.

"This Martian meteorite has everything in its composition that you'd want in order to further our understanding of the Red Planet," Carl Agee, leader of the analysis team and director and curator at the University of New Mexico's Institute of Meteoritics in Albuquerque, said.

"This unique meteorite tells us what volcanism was like on Mars 2 billion years ago. It also gives us a glimpse of ancient surface and environmental conditions on Mars that no other meteorite has ever offered," he said.

Researchers theorize that the large amount of water contained in NWA 7034 may have originated from interaction of the rocks with water present in Mars' crust.

The meteorite also has a different mixture of oxygen isotopes than has been found in other Martian meteorites, which could have resulted from interaction with the Martian atmosphere.

Most Martian meteorites are divided into three rock types, named after three meteorites; Shergotty, Nakhla, and Chassigny. These "SNC" meteorites currently number about 110.

Their point of origin on Mars is not known, and recent data from lander and orbiter missions suggest they are a mismatch for the Martian crust. Although NWA 7034 has similarities to the SNC meteorites, including the presence of macromolecular organic carbon, this new meteorite has many unique characteristics.

"The texture of the NWA meteorite is not like any of the SNC meteorites," co-author Andrew Steele said.

"This is an exciting measurement in Mars and planetary science. We now have more context than ever before to understanding where they may come from," Steele added.

The study has been published in Science Express. (ANI)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Chennai vs Punjab

On Now: Chennai vs Punjab

McCullum's lightning fifty propels Chennai after Dhoni elects to bat at Abu Dhabi. More »

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Trott to take 'immediate break' from cricket

Trott to take 'immediate break' from cricket

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

New-look RCB will play their first game of IPL-7 on Thursday. More »

IPL: News Line

IPL: News Line

A round-up of all the news from this season of the IPL. More »

Shane Watson issues moral warning

Shane Watson issues moral warning

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »