Martian meteorite challenges leading theory of Red Planet formation

(ORDO NEWS) — A new analysis of a Martian meteorite material challenges current understanding of how Earth-like planets accumulated volatiles, including the basic ingredients of biological molecules, during their early formation.

The researchers analyzed the Chasigny meteorite that fell to Earth in 1815. This meteorite is believed to come from the depths of the Martian interior and therefore its study can help understand the early stages of the formation of the solar system.

The main hypothesis for the formation of rocky planets, such as the Earth, implies the inclusion of volatile elements and their compounds – such as water, as well as other elements and stable compounds that evaporate at relatively low temperatures – from the solar nebula, a rotating disk of material surrounding young sun.

These volatiles dissolved in the fiery oceans of magma that were present on the surfaces of young planets, but later released into the formed atmospheres.

After this stage was completed, there was further enrichment in volatiles from meteorites of the chondrite class primitive, rocky asteroids formed from dust and larger particles of material in the early solar system that fell on planetary surfaces, this hypothesis suggests.

A team led by Sandrine Peron, a postdoc researcher at ETH Zurich, has made extremely detailed measurements of minute amounts of isotopes of krypton, a noble gas, in samples of this meteorite at the UC Davis Noble Gas Laboratory, USA.

The researchers were able to establish the origin of the elements that make up the substance of the stone.

The authors found ratios between the isotopes of krypton, indicating the origin of volatiles from the material of chondrites instead of the material of the solar nebula.

These findings suggest that volatile meteorites were incorporated into the substance of the Red Planet’s mantle much earlier in its formation history than previously thought, that is, when the solar nebula had not yet disappeared.

It should be noted that Mars supposedly cooled much faster than the Earth and solidified within about 4 million years, while it took our planet from 50 to 100 million years. This means that by studying matter native to Mars, one can gain a deeper understanding of the early evolution of volatiles in the solar system.

“Martian krypton is almost entirely chondrite in origin, but atmospheric krypton is mostly from the solar nebula,” Perón said in a statement. “The distinction is very clear.”

These observations “contradict the popular hypothesis that during the formation of planets, the delivery of volatiles to the surface in the composition of chondrites occurs after the initial accumulation of material from the solar nebula” and at the same time raise new questions about the formation of planetary atmospheres, the researchers pointed out in the text of an article describing this new scientific work.

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