Paris. A group of scientists managed to identify the place of origin of “Black Beauty” (Black Beauty), a Martian meteorite found in the Sahara in 2011, which can help unravel the origins of the formation of the Earth.
The team has managed to identify which region of Mars the rock comes from, and its particular mineral composition now promises to reveal details of the first moments of our planet.
The meteorite fits in the palm of your hand, weighs just over 300 grams and, above all, is “one of the oldest rocks in the history of geology,” planetologist Sylvain Bouley, one of the report’s co-authors, told AFP. published in Nature Communications.
The meteorite contains zircons, the oldest known mineral on Earth, 4.48 billion years old. That is, “approximately 80 million years after the beginning of the formation of the planets” of the Solar System, explained Bouley, professor at the Geosciences laboratory at the University of Paris-Saclay.
Meteorite NWA 7034 is an “open book on the first moments of Mars”, when its magma surface began to solidify.
The incessant movement of the tectonic plates has been burying and disintegrating the original materials of our planet Earth. Something that did not happen on Mars.
The team of scientists, led by Curtin University in Australia, achieved the feat of identifying the Martian crater where the meteorite NWA 7034 originally came from.
That crater is located in a region whose Martian crust has not changed substantially since the formation of the Red Planet.
In order to identify the exact crater, scientists had to study 8,000 formations of this type existing on the surface of that planet.
By measuring the cosmic ray exposure of NWA 7034, planetologists were able to determine that the meteorite crossed space about five million years ago.
That helped narrow down the type of crater they were looking for. “A very young and wide crater,” Lagain explained.
90 million photos of craters
Another clue: “Black Beauty” suffered previously, about 1.5 billion years ago, a brutal and unexpected warming.
In other words, Mars received a first impact from a meteorite that displaced “Black Beauty”. And then that stone was expelled from the planet by a new shock.
“Black Beauty” was catapulted into space at a speed of “five kilometers per second”, explained Anthony Lagain, director of the study, to AFP.
With the help of a supercomputer, Anthony Lagain and his team managed to process 90 million photos of Martian craters.
A preselection returned 19 images. Of those 19 pits, the computer finally offered Karratha, a 10-km-diameter crater found in “a very old region of the southern hemisphere, rich in potassium and thorium, like Black Beauty,” Lagain explained.
This region, moreover, is highly magnetized, as is the case with the meteorite that reached Earth.
The area is “probably a relic of the oldest crust on Mars,” the study says.
Professor Bouley believes that current missions to Mars have focused too much on searching for sub-surface water, and believes that the formation of that planet is equally important.
When discovered, NWA 7034 was shown to contain water.
Exploring the Martian region where “Black Beauty” comes from would help explain “how we got to a planet as rare as Earth in the Universe,” he says.
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