Wednesday, 18 January 2012 11:50
January 18, 2012
Researchers recently confirmed meteorites that fell to Earth last year emanated from Mars.
Chunks of meteorites landed in Morocco last summer, a surprise to scientists who collected the samples in the North African nation. After conducting an initial investigation to ascertain from where, exactly, the space rocks came, researchers said this week they had traveled from Mars.
The findings are significant, as detritus from the Red Planet has not fallen to Earth in more than 50 years. In fact, researchers affirmed space material from Mars has only been chemically confirmed five times throughout history. The specific pieces of space debris were spotted in the sky more than six months ago, but they were discovered and subsequently retrieved at the end of December.
Scientists from NASA asserted that the meteorites are teeming with important information about Mars. What's more, researchers noted that they present a unique opportunity for the scientific community to determine whether the Red Planet is capable of supporting life.
Man-made spacecraft have not successfully returned any samples from Mars and as a result, scientists are limited in their ability to study the planet's natural environment. The meteorites, which total approximately 15 pounds, are even prompting a bidding war among enthused scientists and collectors.
"It's Christmas in January," former NASA sciences chief Alan Stern asserted. "It's nice to have Mars sending samples to Earth, particularly when our pockets are too empty to go get them ourselves."
The largest rock weighs roughly two pounds, according to scientists. They estimate that the meteorites likely soared through space for millions of years. Experts said that although they did not travel directly from the Red Planet, they are still valuable research tools.
A team of researchers, including those from NASA, said Tuesday that they suspected a large object likely crashed into Mars million of years ago, spurring the release of myriad rocks throughout space. They said that they believed the recently discovered meteorites likely emerged from that blast.
Scientists affirmed that the last recorded instance of a rock from Mars hitting Earth was in 1962. In total, all the known Martian rocks on Earth add up to fewer than 240 pounds, according to the AP.
Researchers representing the International Society for Meteoritics and Planetary Science – the official group that confirms and names meteorites – said that they had no doubts regarding the rocks' genesis. University of Washington professor Tony Irving, who conducted chemical analysis on the rocks, said they identified them using known data about Mar's atmosphere and its chemical composition.
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