(ORDO NEWS) — Almost 10 million years ago, a meteorite crashed into the Earth. Hidden inside it were 23 microscopic grains that tell the story of how Mars formed.
About 5-10 million years ago, the zircon-bearing meteorite NWA 7034 fell into Africa. Scientists discovered it in 2011, and nicknamed the meteorite “Black Beauty” because of its color.
NWA 7034 contained 23 zircon grains. Zircon is formed when magma crystallizes, which means that astronomers can use it to determine the age of planets.
In the earliest days of the planet’s creation, magma erupts through the still-forming surface. This magma led to the deposition of zircon on the Martian surface as it cooled.
Zircon contains radioisotopes. Because they decay at a predictable rate, researchers can use them like clockwork. Scientists use the ratio of the original chemical to the decayed chemical to calculate how long ago the zircon crystallized. This way you can find out the age of the planet.
Astronomers crushed a small piece of the meteorite and analyzed its chemical composition. The Curiosity and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions sent information from Mars about the planet’s rocky surface. A comparison of the data showed that the “Black Beauty” was from Mars.
It took another 9 years to determine exactly where the “Black Beauty” came from. A team of researchers from Washington DC and France analyzed more than 90 million Martian meteorite impact craters.
The researchers narrowed down the possible places of origin by studying the minerals and size of the meteorite. The team stopped at an unnamed 10 km crater in the Terra Cimmeria Sirenum region of Mars.
This region is located in the southern hemisphere of the planet. The team named the site Karratha, after the Australian city’s rock formations.
Scientists believe that planets form in protoplanetary disks.
Molecular clouds are massive cosmic clouds of dust and gas. When a dense pocket of these clouds collapses under its own gravity, a star is born.
The new star causes parts of the remaining gas cloud to rotate around it. This is a protoplanetary disk. Dust and ice particles collide to form planetesimals, which eventually grow into complete planets.
Astronomers can predict these processes using the Hubble telescope for observations and computer simulations.
The researchers say this new understanding of Mars is much larger than the Red Planet.
“By understanding how Mars formed, we can understand how our solar system evolved,” the scientists say.
About 20 million years after formation, the Martian crust stabilized. The oceans of magma cooled and crystallized. And trillions of tons of rock settled to become the planet we know today.
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