They identify the place of origin of ″Black Beauty″, a Martian meteorite that struck Earth | Science and Ecology | D.W.

A group of scientists managed to identify the place of origin of “Black Beauty” (Black Beauty), a Martian meteorite discovered in the Sahara in 2011which could help unravel the origins of the formation of Earth and other planets in the solar system, as detailed in a study published on Tuesday (07.12.2022) by the journal Nature.

The team managed to identify which region of Mars the rock came from, and its peculiar mineral composition now promises to reveal details about our planet’s earliest moments.

One of the “oldest rocks in the history of geology”

The meteorite fits in the palm of your hand, weighs just over 300 grams and is “one of the oldest rocks in the history of geology”, said report co-author and planetary scientist Sylvain Bouley. The space rock contains zircons, the oldest known mineral on Earth, at 4.48 billion years old. Or “about 80 million years after the start of the formation of the planets” of the Solar System, explained Bouley, professor at the geosciences laboratory of the University of Paris-Saclay.

The meteorite, also called NWA 7034, is an “open book on the first moments of Mars”, when its magma surface began to solidify. The relentless movement of tectonic plates has buried and disintegrated the original materials of our planet Earth. Something that didn’t happen on Mars.

In search of the original crater

The team of scientists, led by Curtin University in Australia, managed the feat of identifying the Martian crater from which the NWA 7034 meteorite originated. This formation is located in a region whose crust has no much changed since the formation of the red planet.

In order to identify the exact crater, scientists had to study 8,000 such formations on the surface of this planet. By measuring the cosmic ray exposure of NWA 7034, planetary scientists were able to determine that the meteorite passed through space about five million years ago.

Artificial intelligence helped identify the original crater

With the help of a supercomputer, Anthony Lagain and his team managed to process 90 million photos of Martian craters. A preset returned 19 images. Among these, the computer suggested the Karratha Trench, a 10 km diameter crater found in “a very ancient region of the Southern Hemisphere, rich in potassium and thorium, like Black Beauty,” Lagain explained. .

This region is also strongly magnetized, as is the case of the meteorite which reached the Earth. The area is “probably a relic of the oldest crust on Mars”, according to the study.

The importance of studying “Black Beauty”

Professor Bouley considers that current missions to Mars have focused excessively on finding water below its surface, and believes that the formation of this planet is equally important. In fact, when NWA 7034 was discovered, it was shown to contain water.

Exploring the Martian region where “Black Beauty” originated would explain “how we arrived on a planet as exceptional as Earth in the Universe”, concluded the expert.

JU (afp, efe)

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