Study suggests presence of water on Mars 4.4 billion years ago

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on November 02, 2020 Published on November 02, 2020

A new analysis of an ancient meteorite that had formed on Mars has indicated the presence of water on the red planet billions of years ago.

Meteorites dubbed NWA 7034 and NWA 7533 had originated on Mars millions of years ago. They were discovered in the Sahara Desert several years ago.

An international team of researchers obtained 50 grams of NWA 7533 for analysis.

“The earliest fragments formed on Mars 4.4 billion years ago, making them the oldest known Martian meteorites. Rocks like this are rare and can fetch up to $10,000 per gram,” according to an official release by the University of Tokyo Professor Takashi Mikouchi was one of the members in the international team.

“I study minerals in Martian meteorites to understand how Mars formed and its crust and mantle evolved. This is the first time I have investigated this particular meteorite, nicknamed Black Beauty for its dark colour,” said Mikouchi.

“Our samples of NWA 7533 were subjected to four different kinds of spectroscopic analysis, ways of detecting chemical fingerprints. The results led our team to draw some exciting conclusions.”

Researchers found that certain minerals from the crust of the meteorite from Mars were oxidised. This indicated that water was present on the planet during the impact that created the meteorite.

“Igneous clasts, or fragmented rock, in the meteorite are formed from magma and are commonly caused by impacts and oxidation,” said Mikouchi. “This oxidation could have occurred if there was water present on or in the Martian crust 4.4 billion years ago during an impact that melted part of the crust. Our analysis also suggests such an impact would have released a lot of hydrogen, which would have contributed to planetary warming at a time when Mars already had a thick insulating atmosphere of carbon dioxide.”

The results of this research could further help in the study of the origin of life beyond planet Earth.

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Published on November 02, 2020
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