Martian meteorite may hold clues to water on the Red Planet

May 24, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists are examining fragments of a Martian meteorite to try to establish when water was freely flowing on the red planet.

Using powerful electron microscopes, Dr Martin Lee and colleagues at the University of Glasgow are painstakingly scanning a tiny chunk of a called Nakhla, which fell to Earth in 1911, reputedly hitting a dog in Egypt.

The team is looking for minerals within the meteorite that might have been carried there by water seeping through tiny pores in the rock which then crystallised.

Dr Lee, a senior lecturer in Geographical and Earth Sciences, said: “When the minerals crystallise they contain certain elements which are radioactive and therefore decay over time - , for example, which decays to form argon. By measuring the levels of argon we are able to determine roughly when the minerals grew and hence when the water deposited them there.

“Meteorites like this offer the best way of analysing the Martian environment and geological history as there’s more of Mars on Earth than we could ever bring back from the planet itself. It’s possible that we might even find bits of trapped within rocks, and maybe some traces of within that.

Explore further: Start of dwarf planet mission delayed after small mix-up

Related Stories

Meteorite bombardment may have made Earth more habitable

Jun 01, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Large bombardments of meteorites approximately four billion years ago could have helped to make the early Earth and Mars more habitable for life by modifying their atmospheres, suggests the ...

Life on Mars theory boosted by new methane study

Dec 08, 2009

Scientists have ruled out the possibility that methane is delivered to Mars by meteorites, raising fresh hopes that the gas might be generated by life on the red planet, in research published tomorrow in Earth an ...

Recommended for you

Can sound help us detect 'earthquakes' on Venus?

Apr 23, 2015

Detecting an "earthquake" on Venus would seem to be an impossible task. The planet's surface is a hostile zone of crushing pressure and scorching temperatures—about 874 degrees F, hot enough to melt lead—that ...

Titan's atmosphere useful in study of hazy exoplanets

Apr 23, 2015

With more than a thousand confirmed planets outside of our solar system, astronomers are attempting to identify the atmospheres of these distant bodies to determine if they could possibly host life.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.