(ORDO NEWS) — Recently, astronomers issued a warning about the potential danger of approaching meteorites with magnets.
Magnets can change the mineralogical properties of meteorites, which can lead to loss or distortion of information about the composition and age of these samples.
This could be a major problem for scientists who are investigating Mars’ past using meteorites that hit Earth.
Meteorites may hold key information about the climate, geology and possible life on Mars in the past, and studying them could help scientists better understand this planet and its history.
Often meteorite hunters use heavy-duty magnets to detect samples rich in magnetite and other iron minerals. A new study has shown that in doing so, they can damage valuable scientific data.
Astrophysicist Frans Lagroix and his colleagues conducted experiments using neodymium magnets, which meteorite hunters often use.
They found that magnets change the magnetization of particles inside meteorites and also remove microscopic traces of the meteorite’s interaction with the environment, which can give scientists valuable information about the origin of the meteorite and the history of its movement in space.
One such meteorite, NWA 7034, was found in the Sahara in 2011. It was given the informal nickname “Black Beauty” due to its dark color and smooth surface.
This meteorite belongs to the type of woolly chondrites and is a mixture of minerals and organic compounds. It is one of the oldest meteorites on Earth as it is estimated to be 4.4 billion years old.
Black Beauty’s research showed that her past was wiped clean by a strong magnetic field.
To preserve valuable information in meteorites, astronomers do not recommend the use of magnets when searching for them on Earth.
Instead, they must use more delicate approaches, such as metal detectors, to avoid damaging important scientific data.
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