Martian Traveler

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Martian Traveler

It’s pretty remarkable that scientists have figured out that some meteorites come from Mars. What’s even more remarkable is they may know just where on Mars one of them came from.

The meteorite is cataloged as Northwest Africa 7034. It was discovered in 2011, in the Sahara Desert. The rock weighs about 11 ounces. And because of its dark appearance, it’s nicknamed “black beauty.” An American bought the meteorite and donated it to the University of New Mexico.

Detailed analysis revealed that it came from Mars. And it contains the oldest bits of Mars yet seen: small crystals almost four and a half billion years old — almost as old as Mars itself.

Studying the meteorite can help scientists learn about the formation of Mars. But it helps to have more background about the meteorite. So geologists set about trying to find out where it came from. They used A-I to study millions of impact craters. They compared the types of craters, the composition of their rocks, and their magnetic fields. And they came up with a likely location: near a large crater in the southern hemisphere.

The rock likely was blasted from below the surface when an asteroid hit Mars one and a half billion years ago, gouging out a crater 25 miles across. The rock stayed on the surface until a smaller impact hurled it into space 5 to 10 million years ago. It then made its way to Earth — the oldest bits of Mars we’ve ever seen.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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