Categories: MarsMeteorites

Moroccan Meteorite May Be a 4.4-Billion-Year-Old Chunk of Dark Martian Crust

Mars is often referred to as the Red Planet. But its signature color is only skin-deep – or, I should say, dust-deep. Beneath its rusty regolith Mars has many other hues and shades as well, from pale greys like those found inside holes drilled by Curiosity to large dark regions that are the result of ancient lava flows. Now, researchers think we may have an actual piece of one of Mars’ dark plains here on Earth in the form of a meteorite that was found in the Moroccan desert in 2011.

Mars meteorite NWA 7034 (NASA)

Classified as NWA 7034 (for Northwest Africa) the meteorite is a 320-gram (11 oz.) piece of Martian basaltic breccia made up of small fragments cemented together in a dark matrix. Nicknamed “Black Beauty,” NWA 7034 is one of the oldest meteorites ever discovered and is like nothing else ever found on Earth.

According to a new study on a fragment of the meteorite by researchers from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and the University of New Mexico, Black Beauty is a 4.4-billion-year-old chunk of Mars’ dark crust – the only known piece of such to have landed on Earth.

While other meteorites originating from Mars have been identified, they are of entirely different types than Black Beauty.

The researchers used a hyperspectral imaging technique to obtain data from across the whole fragment. In doing this, the measurements matched what’s been detected from Mars orbit by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

“Other techniques give us measurements of a dime-sized spot,” said Kevin Cannon, a Brown University graduate student and lead author of a new paper published in the journal Icarus. “What we wanted to do was get an average for the entire sample. That overall measurement was what ended up matching the orbital data.”

In addition to indicating a truly ancient piece of another planet, these findings hint at what the surface of many parts of Mars might be like just below the rusty soil… a surface that’s been shattered and reassembled many times by meteorite impacts.

“This is showing that if you went to Mars and picked up a chunk of crust, you’d expect it to be heavily beat up, battered, broken apart and put back together,” Cannon said.

HiRISE image of dark terrain near Ganges Chasma (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Source/read more at Brown University news.

Jason Major

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Recent Posts

Astronomers still scratching their heads over population of ocean-world exoplanets

In a recent study submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters, an international team of researchers…

5 hours ago

Dwarf Planet Quaoar has a Ring

Quaoar is one of about 3,000 dwarf planets in our Solar System's Kuiper Belt. Astronomers…

10 hours ago

Could a Dark Energy Phase Change Relieve the Hubble Tension?

A new study suggests that the Hubble Constant could be resolved by the presence of…

11 hours ago

A Russian Satellite Has Broken Into Pieces, Littering Debris in Space

A Russian KOSMOS 2499 satellite broke up last month -- for a second time --…

12 hours ago

New Discoveries Puts Jupiter at 92 Known Moons

The moon hunter strikes again. A team of astronomers led by Scott Sheppard of the…

17 hours ago

The World's Largest Radio Telescope Just Scanned 33 Exoplanets for a Signal From Aliens

Using China's FAST telescope and a new technique, an international team of astronomers scanned 33…

1 day ago