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Rare Water-Rich Mars Meteorite Discovered

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the mars-needs-floaties dept.

Mars 71

astroengine writes "A rare Martian meteorite recently found in Morocco contains minerals with 10 times more water than previously discovered Mars meteorites, a finding that raises new questions about when and how long the planet most like Earth in the solar system had conditions suitable for life. The meteorite, known as Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, is the second-oldest of 110 named stones originating from Mars that have been retrieved on Earth. Purchased from a Moroccan meteorite dealer in 2011, the black, baseball-sized stone, which weighs less than 1 pound, is 2.1 billion years old, meaning it formed during what is known as the early Amazonian era in Mars' geologic history. 'It's from a time on Mars that we actually don't know much about,' geologist Carl Agee, with the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, told Discovery News."

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71 comments

Ironic (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471113)

We spend billions on probes, and get more information from looking at a rock in Africa.

Nice work NASA.

Re:Ironic (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471189)

Firstly, we probe for much much more than just water.
Secondly, we don't get more information from looking at a rock in Africa. We get some information, and it's different from the information we get from Mars itself.
Thirdly, this is from very early Mars history. It's very different to current Mars.

Re:Ironic (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471297)

How can you be different "to" something? Aren't you different *from* something?

Re:Ironic (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471305)

Without the money spent on probes (and, in particular, without the Apollo Lunar samples and the Viking Mars descent mass spectrometer), we wouldn't know that this was a Martian rock.

Re:Ironic (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471355)

Without the money spent on probes, certain politicians (probably in Florida, Texas & California) wouldn't have gotten re-elected for bringing such fine pork to their state.

Re:Ironic (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about a year and a half ago | (#42474421)

The Pork is in Houston with their manned missions, not JPL in California that does the unmanned missions. Houston is now building a Pork-extravaganza called the Space Launch System (SLS)--called "The Rocket to Nowhere" because it has no mission except to create income for aerospace execs in Houston.

Re:Ironic (4, Funny)

tyrione (134248) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472475)

We spend billions on probes, and get more information from looking at a rock in Africa.

Nice work NASA.

I imagine if we probed your ass we'd discover a passaage all the way across the Milky Way, perhaps?

Re:Ironic (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472769)

We spend billions on probes, and get more information from looking at a rock in Africa.

Nice work NASA.

I imagine if we probed your ass we'd discover a pasaage all the way across the Milky Way, perhaps?

Or at least to Uranus.

Re:Ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42485417)

or it could be M'ars

Re:Ironic (0, Troll)

NSN A392-99-964-5927 (1559367) | about a year and a half ago | (#42473349)

We spend billions on probes, and get more information from looking at a rock in Africa.

Nice work NASA.

Why vote the parent as a troll? He was just stating the obvious and pissed on someone's bonfire. Get over it!

Watch this, I will now be called troll!

Re:Ironic (3, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42473443)

Because it would closer to the truth to say this:

We spend billions on probes, and get some complementary information from looking at a rock in Africa.

It's a bit like asking why we sent the Viking landers when we can see it's red from here.

Re:Ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42478617)

We build the Internet. And look what asshats turn it into. Nice work, humanity.

Curiosity cost $2B USD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471129)

And we can find this stuff right here on Earth. I think I'm going to be sick.

Re:Curiosity cost $2B USD (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471213)

And to think we could have invested that entire $2b USD in one of our $multi-trillion USD wars, instead of squandering it on mere "science".

Re:Curiosity cost $2B USD (2)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471255)

Or more super computers for New Mexico. Apparently they don't have nearly enough of them.

Re:Curiosity cost $2B USD (1)

2.7182 (819680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471435)

But we could have given it to condensed matter physics research, which gets way less than NASA, or other branches of physics, such as particle physics, yet has numerous applications, while still contributing to our fundamental understanding of the world, through applications of quantum field theory and statistical mechanics.

Re:Curiosity cost $2B USD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42472989)

yet has numerous applications

Such as?

Re:Curiosity cost $2B USD (1)

2.7182 (819680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42474003)

Liquid crystal technology. Thank you, Kent State.

Re:Curiosity cost $2B USD (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year and a half ago | (#42474175)

Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup.

weee hooo (4, Funny)

sgt scrub (869860) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471267)

I'm put'n the trailer back on the rocket. It's time to colomonize me some mars!

Re:weee hooo (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472483)

Crash it into the southern US. They need the water.

So (2)

NobleSavage (582615) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471289)

How does someone become a meteorite dealer?

Re:So (2)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471317)

How does someone become a meteorite dealer?

Go out in the desert and find some meteorites. Or, get to be a good friend with someone who does.

Re:So (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42480653)

It helps having friends on the meteorite exchange.

Re:So (3, Informative)

14erCleaner (745600) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471529)

There's a good recent book about the history of meteorite collecting (and dealing), if you're really interested. The Fallen Sky [tucsoncitizen.com] by Christopher Cokinos. He chronicles the activities of a couple of very active meteorite dealers of the 20th century - they would mostly rush to the sites of recent falls and look around or buy pieces from local people who find them.

Re:So (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#42474983)

There's a good recent book about the history of meteorite collecting (and dealing), if you're really interested. The Fallen Sky [tucsoncitizen.com] by Christopher Cokinos. He chronicles the activities of a couple of very active meteorite dealers of the 20th century - they would mostly rush to the sites of recent falls and look around or buy pieces from local people who find them.

That sounds about as interesting as a history of the now legendary Keswick Pencil Museum.

Job title - Moroccan Meteorite Dealer. (1)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471745)

Hilarious. Beats the hell out of "Ghostbuster".

Re:So (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472387)

How does someone become a meteorite dealer?

Hang out with dinosaurs

Check it out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471331)

There are TEN water molecules in this one, guys!

Obviously a highly advanced civilzation. (1)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471779)

No one else could possibly get past 9 molecules.

Re:Check it out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42473803)

That's lame: mine goes to 11.

NWA (3, Funny)

AnderMoney (1001144) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471545)

Does anyone else think they could have picked a better acronym for Africa than NWA?

Re:NWA (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42473447)

Northwest Africa (NWA)

Africa's pretty big. It helps to divide it up.

Re:NWA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42474117)

NWA [wikipedia.org] is the acronym for the influential hiphop group, Niggaz Wit Attitudes

Re:NWA (2)

crypticedge (1335931) | about a year and a half ago | (#42474169)

And had been the geographic designation for North West Africa for far longer. Just because a hip hop group couldn't come up with their own acronym doesn't mean it's wrong to use it in a setting it had already been in use for generations.

Re:NWA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42475837)

The GP was clearly a joke man.

Re:NWA (1)

toddestan (632714) | about a year and a half ago | (#42483257)

I'm pretty sure the group was named after the airline anyway.

On a geochemical basis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471547)

It's not from Mars !

XD

Venus, not Mars. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471593)

"a finding that raises new questions about when and how long the planet most like Earth in the solar system had conditions suitable for life"

Venus is Earth's twin. Mars is like mini-me.

Re:Venus, not Mars. (1)

onemorechip (816444) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472601)

Sigh. Venus gets no love. Ironic, isn't it?

Some questions (2, Interesting)

Celarent Darii (1561999) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471649)

The article is very short on explanations. For instance:

1/ When they say 'Martian meteorite' do they mean that it actually came from the surface of mars or rather than it's general origin was near to the orbit of mars?
2/ What guarantees are there that this rock is actually from mars?
3/ If so, how can you explain the parent meteor escaping the gravity well of mars? If this piece of rock is about a kilogram, then its entry mass must have been be quite large. The meteorite in California that was tracked with radar (the Sutton Mill's meteorite in 2008) and later collected had an estimated mass of 40,000 kg but only about 1 kg was recoverable from pieces much smaller than the one in the story.
4/ Following this, it would seem an improbable event that a/ there would be some impact on mars that would send ejecta as large as 40000 kg out of mars orbit and that b/ this orbit would be towards the earth. Any impact that could send ejecta into escape velocity would almost have to be tangential to the surface, and even then it is difficult to see how such an impact could even produce large ejecta as the impact would skim more across the surface rather than into the interior of the planet.
5/ usually dating of the material and its mineral composition leads to a supposition that it is of planetary origin. And yet this rock has a different material composition than martian rocks, as per the article. Thus it seems that the entire hypothesis that it came from mars should actually be questioned instead of inferring that mars had more water than because of the composition of this meteorite.

Just how can they actually prove that the rock came from mars? It seems Occam's razor needs some sharpening.

I remember not long ago that they were saying that the Corvid meteoroids were ejecta from the Giordano Bruno impact. This was proven false: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1993JGR....98.9145H [harvard.edu]

Re:Some questions (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471859)

Why would the article address any of those questions? That's like talking about solar flares and expecting an explanation of how hydrogen fuses into helium. Google methods for determining meteorite origins if you want to know.

Re:Some questions (1)

Agent ME (1411269) | about a year and a half ago | (#42477957)

Nah, I think it would be more like talking about meteorites from Mars and explaining whether the meteorite was from Mars.

Re:Some questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42471959)

To disprove something you just need to find one flaw. If you seriously doubt that this rock comes from Mars then just state the most serious flaw and we'll discuss that. Don't spread your disbelief like butter, it makes it thin everywhere.

RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42472455)

it says that scientists compared the scientific findings from the mars rovers, ie geological, biologic, and chemical results from those studies, etc and determined the meteorite fits undeniably the exactly same composite of rocks scientists are currently finding and studying on the martian surface with the rovers.

Re:Some questions (3, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42473207)

Funny that you can find a link to something that implies the claim is false... but that you can't be bothered to google on "martian meteorite [google.com] "... and if you did do so, you'd see one of the related searches is "how do martian meteorites get to earth [google.com] ".

Skepticism is useful, but get off your dead ass and be an informed skeptic rather than an ignoramus.

Re:Some questions (1)

Celarent Darii (1561999) | about a year and a half ago | (#42475153)

Well I do happen to know something of the topic, but thank you for your snide remarks. "Look it up" is the classic defense of a sectarian, not a scientist.

Quoting from an article you can read here : http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0204346.pdf [arxiv.org]

[page 4]

"Two major mechanisms of impact-related meteorite ejection from Mars have been proposed: (1) acceleration of fragments by a shock wave in the solid rock... and (2) acceleration of fragments by the gas produced in a strong impact (which can be oblique).

One should bear in mind that the initial size of the body determined by the time of exposure of its fragments to cosmic rays should be 15 m. Another limitation consists in that the mass of the impact-created lunar meteorites should be 2500 times that of the Martian ones and the mass of the latter, reach ~10^14 kg. In actual fact, of the SNC meteorites exceeds by a factor ~40 that of lunar ones. Taking into account the crystallization age (1.3 Gyr), it becomes very difficult to satisfy all these requirements for the case of Mars, since they call for ejection from a comparitively young (~200 Myr old) crater of diameter D=150-200 km. Such craters do not appear to exist on Mars, and there is no certainty in the presence of sufficiently young craters with D=100-150 km."

tl;dr : it is not at all certain that the SNC meteors came from Mars as there are phenomena that do not support this thesis. Another thesis is that they came from earth ejecta, and the observed data actually fits this model very well.

Re:Some questions (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42475569)

Well I do happen to know something of the topic

From the questions you asked, that's not immediately obvious. In fact, from the questions you asked you appeared to be completely ignorant of the topic.
 

"Look it up" is the classic defense of a sectarian, not a scientist.

Had I been defending something, you'd have a point. What I was doing was answering your questions - something to which "here's the relevant links" is a completely valid answer. But it looks like you're not interested in answers.
 

. Taking into account the crystallization age (1.3 Gyr), it becomes very difficult to satisfy all these requirements for the case of Mars

Anyone actually familiar with science knows that difficult is not a synonym for impossible. - even though ignorant jackasses try mightily to make it so.
 

tl;dr : it is not at all certain that the SNC meteors came from Mars as there are phenomena that do not support this thesis. Another thesis is that they came from earth ejecta, and the observed data actually fits this model very well.

tl;dr transation: "It's completely certain that I (Celarent) am an ignorant jackass who is highly selective about what I'll read and believe".
 

thank you for your snide remarks

Not a problem - you deserved them in spades for ignorance above and beyond the call.

Re:Some questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42485893)

Been up all night drinking?

Re:Some questions (1)

Celarent Darii (1561999) | about a year and a half ago | (#42486557)

The questions I proposed were not completely without foundation, and you noticed that I actually quoted an article. If you search Google you will get mostly fluff reponses like the article with no real arguments on the dynamic mechanisms that allow us to state that this particular rock actually came from Mars. The links you gave were not answers but just magical hand-waving: "look it up on Google, here are links" . Those links don't answer the objections.

The only real argument that can establish the non-earth origin is the material composition of the rocks. And yet now we see that their material composition is not like the mars that we have actually measured thanks to the NASA probes. But the article now claims that we must posit the hypothesis that Mars was somehow different in the past because of this ONE specimen. Actually it should be the other way around - we should question the hypothesis that this rock actually came from Mars. Similarly when they announced micro-fossils in a SNC meteorite, the burden of proof must lay on the argument of their Martian origin, which is hardly self-evident. Just saying that it is possible they came from Mars is not sufficient.

The only really convincing argument that SNC meteors are from Mars are the isotopic ratios of Oxygen present in the rocks. And yet this ratio can be explained by other mechanisms as quoted in the second article, if you would actually read it to the end.

As to the rest, the only reason I bother to post on Slashdot is for the discussion. I suppose Slashdot has simply lost its ability to question and reason scientifically. As a news source there are many others and better, but it was the ability to question and discuss the news that gave Slashdot value. But I guess that value is no longer to be found here.

So don't worry much, no need for me to come here and waste your time. Have fun with Google and whatever they want you to find, and please try not to think too much.

Two questions... (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471689)

1. How do we know that a rock is from Mars, especially when its composition is different from what we've found on Mars to date.

2. How do rocks leave Mars' gravity well in the first place? Are they shrapnel from Mars being hit by big meteorites?

Re:Two questions... (5, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#42471915)

1. How do we know that a rock is from Mars, especially when its composition is different from what we've found on Mars to date.

Isotope ratios and certain element ratios. These depend on the history of a planetary body, and you can rule out every planet / asteroid but Mars. I always liked the conclusion in this paper [sciencedirect.com] :

There seems little likelihood that the SNCs are not from Mars. If they were from another planetary body, it would have to be substantially identical to Mars

Of course, there is no such other Mars in the solar system.

The existence and composition of little atmospheric inclusions (i.e., tiny little bits of Martian air trapped in the rock) were another convincing piece of evidence for the Mars meteorites, as was the evidence of alteration by water.

2. How do rocks leave Mars' gravity well in the first place? Are they shrapnel from Mars being hit by big meteorites?

In a way. Suppose you have a big meteor hit (the size of the one that formed the Baringer Meteor Crater, or bigger). The meteor drills into the body and goes beneath the surface. At some point, it is stopped, and it dumps its kinetic energy into the body of the planet (i.e., for big impacts the meteorite explodes at depth). The shock wave is roughly spherical, and so the part directed upwards lifts up the surface above where the meteorite hit. Most of this material is lifted not much more than the depth of the explosion, forming the characteristic lip of the crater, and typically turning the layers in the rock upside down at the lip. Some of this material can be accelerated to much higher velocities, however, forming (for example) the rays of the new craters on the Moon. If the meteorite is really big, some of the surface material is accelerated to escape velocity and away it goes. After a little while (a few dozen to no more than a million years), some material will hit another planet. Mars and Earth have been trading material like this for the life of the solar system.

The really amazing thing is that some of the material ejected is not treated too roughly. Spores and seeds etc. could definitely survive the trip.

Re:Two questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42472243)

The really amazing thing is that some of the material ejected is not treated too roughly. Spores and seeds etc. could definitely survive the trip.
Leading to interplanetary evolution.
Intergalactic evolution.
Web of life getting mighty big.

Re:Two questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42472269)

The really amazing thing is that some of the material ejected is not treated too roughly. Spores and seeds etc. could definitely survive the trip.

Here's proof that Shrooms are really alien life-forms! Especially the magic varieties that unfold all the mysteries of the universe in posing endless questions about life itself.

Re:Two questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42472271)

sounds a little BS to me

"and you can rule out every planet / asteroid but Mars"
where is this catalog of every single asteroid to ever come close to earth since creation of earth?

"At some point, it is stopped"

yea when its out of energy genius

Re:Two questions... (3, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472497)

sounds a little BS to me

"and you can rule out every planet / asteroid but Mars"
where is this catalog of every single asteroid to ever come close to earth since creation of earth?

The list of asteroids with an atmosphere and liquid water is rather short (as in, non-existant). That also rules out Venus and Mercury. The isotope data rules out the Earth (or the Moon). These arguments also rule out the Jovian satellites and stuff further out. Conversely, other isotope data make it clear these objects do come from within the solar system somewhere.

This was all argued out at length in the 1980's and there were many skeptics, but they were eventually convinced. I remember being at a debate in Paris where one of the leading skeptics was reduced to saying that, although these came from a body very much like Mars, and not like any other solar system body, that didn't prove they are from Mars. That was about when he lost me. Now, this is regarded as well established and not controversial at all.

"At some point, it is stopped"

yea when its out of energy genius

It has to get vaporized first.

try googling asteroids water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42473887)

as we now think that the majority of the earths water may have been donated by asteroids, it may not be a surprise if an asteroid strike on mars resulted in a piece of mars rock with a piece of watery asteroid being hurled back out and finaly landing on the 3rd rock out.

Re:Two questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42473295)

Of course, there is no such other Mars in the solar system.

You mean "there is no such other Mars in the solar system NOW".

I guess Marvin had other planets obstructing his view of Venus in the past...

Re:Two questions... (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | about a year and a half ago | (#42493493)

Thank you for that. :)

Re:Two questions... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472391)

How do we know that a rock is from Mars?

Look for the label "Made on Mars".

We must be doing it wrong (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472439)

We spend $2 billion on a Mars rover, and then Wham!, a Mars rock lands on somebody's ass.

Meanwhile, On Mars... (5, Funny)

guttentag (313541) | about a year and a half ago | (#42472675)

In other news, Martian authorities report that a rare Earth meteor has been discovered to contain 10 times as much fissionable material as found in previous Earth meteorites. The finding calls into question previous assumptions within the scientific community that Earth may contain little fissionable material and therefore was deemed unlikely to support life. Still, some Martians are asking tough questions: "How do you know it came from Earth? Where's your proof? How do we know you're not just trying to save your precious space budget when we have more important things to worry about, like climbing out of the so-called Fiscal Crater?"

Re:Meanwhile, On Mars... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42472885)

Thank you for the insightful laugh. It was needed.

mo3 down (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42472731)

irc.easynews.3om

Probes (1)

leoaloha (90485) | about a year and a half ago | (#42473065)

When the Martians come here to do their anal probes, are they looking for water?
Just asking!

Venus (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#42473427)

Venus is most like Earth in the solar system, not Mars.

Meteorite Dealer? (1)

coofercat (719737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42474057)

> Purchased from a Moroccan meteorite dealer in 2011

How do I get a job like that? Does anyone know someone that needs a house clearance or some such that may pop up a couple of meteorites I could stick on Ebay?

(I'll name all my meteorites after music acts: NWA 7034, The Rolling Stones 2309, The meteorite formerly known as Prince 3476...)

Re:Meteorite Dealer? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#42475051)

Just get some random rocks from your garden, paint them black and call them meteorites. The sort of rich twats who collect things won't know the difference (and you're hardly going to make much money flogging them to museums).

Free Mars! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42474215)

Free Mars!

Call for Technology: Asteroid Attraction (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42474741)

WHEREAS we have spent an incredible amount of money sending probes to Mars looking for traces of water only to find it on a meteorite that has impacted Earth;

WHEREAS an inordinate amount of science has been conducted by lazy couch potato researchers utilizing passive methods of data collection of the cosmos, and this phenomenon in combination with illicit 64oz 'Big Gulp' sales has resulted in an epidemic of obesity among our revered scientists;

WHEREAS several years' drought have reduced the yield of the annual rattlesnake hunt, a time honored tradition and risk-taking coming-of-age ritual of adolescence;

WHEREAS the idea of humanity expanding its frontiers by populating the cosmos has been a crackpot idea from the start, as it has been discovered that Planet Earth has been part of the cosmos all along;

IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED that all efforts of space exploration by humans be abandoned, and humanities sole endeavor from this day forward shall be to develop robotic technology to divert meteorites and large asteroids onto a collision path with Earth, so we may learn even more about the universe in which we live, a 3km asteroid would provide enough data for generations of scientific study;

IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED that the National annual 'varmit hunt' be re-tasked as the 'annual 3km asteroid flaming firestorm of death as we gather valuable spectroscopy data during its final approach ' hunt.

Keep watching the skies. The truth is actually hidden under that grimy layer in your bellybutton.

Re:Call for Technology: Asteroid Attraction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42479673)

that was a lot of effort for nobody to mod you up... I would have but haven't had any points in a long time

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