A Bronze Age Arrowhead was Made Out of a Meteorite

It’s sometimes hard to remember that meteorites have been hitting our planets for millions of years. And some of them are made of valuable materials such as titanium or iron. So, theoretically, at least, our bronze and iron age ancestors could utilize these ready-made metallic rocks without having to dig underground to access them, like they would with regular tin or iron veins. Now, a new study of an arrowhead made out of a meteorite points out just how valuable iron age society thought these meteorites were and hints at a trade network that reached farther than archeologists initially thought.

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Meteorites Store a Magnetic Memory of the Early Solar System

Black Beauty, or NWA 7034, is a Martian meteorite thought to have formed at a time when the Red Planet harbored a magnetic field. Credit: C Agee, Institute of Meteoritics, UNM; NASA

Although they are thought of as rare, meteorites are actually quite common. About 40,000 tons of meteorites strike Earth every day. Most of them land in the ocean, and most are quite tiny, but they are still common enough that hobbyists all over the world find meteorites all the time. The most common place to find them is in arid regions where their coloring can stand out from the terrain. But even then a meteorite can be difficult to distinguish from terrestrial rocks.

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It’s Surprisingly Easy to Hurl Rocks From Mars Into Space

A Martian meteorite, designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034 and nicknamed "Black Beauty," weighing approximately 11 ounces. Credit: NASA,

Of the thousands of meteorites found on Earth, about 188 have been confirmed to be from Mars. How did they get here? Over the tumultuous history of our Solar System, asteroids have smashed into Mars with such force, the debris was blasted off the planet and then drifted through space, eventually entering Earth’s atmosphere, and surviving the journey to the ground.

Astronomers once thought it was a complex process, with only the most powerful impacts capable of throwing rocks from Mars into space. But new research shows that it takes much less pressure than previously believed, which means there could be more chunks of Mars floating in space and on their way to Earth.

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Meteorites are Contaminated Quickly When They Reach Earth

Image of an Earth-altered sample of the Winchcombe meteorite; scale bar in micrometers. (Credit: University of Glasgow)

On Earth, geologists study rocks to help better understand the history of our planet. In contrast, planetary geologists study meteorites to help better understand the history of our solar system. While these space rocks put on quite the spectacle when they enter our atmosphere at high speeds, they also offer insights into both the formation and evolution of the solar system and the planetary bodies that encompass it. But what happens as a meteorite traverses our thick atmosphere and lands on the Earth? Does it stay in its pristine condition for scientists to study? How quickly should we contain the meteorite before the many geological processes that make up our planet contaminate the specimen? How does this contamination affect how the meteorite is studied?

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Curiosity Finds Another Metal Meteorite on Mars

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured this image of an iron-nickel meteorite nicknamed "Cacao" on Jan, 28, 2023, the 3,725th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

MSL Curiosity is going about its business exploring Mars. The high-tech rover is currently exploring the sulphate-bearing unit on Mt. Sharp, the central peak in Mars’ Gale Crater. Serendipity placed a metal meteorite in its path.

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Meteorites Bathed in Gamma Rays Produce More Amino Acids and Could Have Helped Life get Going on Earth

Carbonaceous chondrites like the Allende meteorite contain significant amounts of water and amino acids. Could they have delivered amino acids to early Earth and spurred on the development of life? Image Credit: By Shiny Things - originally posted to Flickr as AMNH - Meteorite, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4196153

Our modern telescopes are more powerful than their predecessors, and our research is more focused than ever. We keep discovering new things about the Solar System and finding answers to long-standing questions. But one of the big questions we still don’t have an answer for is: ‘How did life on Earth begin?’

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Space Diamonds are Even Harder Than Earth Diamonds

In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international team of researchers led by Monash University in Australia have verified the existence of a rare hexagonal structure of diamond called lonsdaleite, within ureilite meteorites from the inside of a dwarf planet that formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

Lonsdaleite is named after Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, a famous British pioneering crystallographer responsible for developing several X-ray methods for studying crystal structures, and was the first woman elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society in 1945. This study holds the potential for further unlocking the secrets of the formation of our solar system, and was conducted with collaboration from RMIT University, the Australian Synchrotron and Plymouth University, and CSIRO.

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Scientists Identify the Source of a Famous Meteorite as One Crater on Mars

Researchers have found the source crater for the Martian Black Beauty meteorite, aka NWA 7034. It came from the north-east of the Terra Cimeria—Sirenum region, inside the black circle to the west of the Tharsis region. Image Credit: NASA/MOLA/The Planetary Society.

If we think untangling Earth’s complex geological history is difficult, think of the challenge involved in doing the same for Mars. At such a great distance, we rely on a few orbiters, a handful of rovers and landers, and our powerful telescopes to gather evidence. But unlike Earth, Mars is, for the most part, geologically inactive. Much of the evidence for Mars’ long history is still visible on the surface.

That helped scientists identify the source of one of our most well-known meteorites.

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Want to Own a Meteorite from Geoff Notkin’s Personal Collection?

Geoff Notkin hunting for meteorites in the Monturaqui Crater in Chile. Image courtesy of Geoff Notkin.

For nearly 30 years Geoff Notkin has traveled the world in search of meteorites, those ancient relics from outer space that have fallen to Earth. He shared his adventures on the Science Channel series “Meteorite Men,” and through lectures and appearances across almost every continent, he has sparked interest in space science and exploration. He has been a devoted meteorite hunter and collector, amassing a large collection. But now, after much deliberation, Notkin has decided to auction off some of his personal meteorite collection, as well as other personal items.

Of course, our first question was, why? Is he leaving the field of meteorite hunting?

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The Early Solar System was Total Mayhem

An artist's illustration of a chaotic young solar system. Image Credit: Tobias Stierli, flaeck / PlanetS

There’s no question that young solar systems are chaotic places. Cascading collisions defined our young Solar System as rocks, boulders, and planetesimals repeatedly collided. A new study based on chunks of asteroids that crashed into Earth puts a timeline to some of that chaos.

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