Researchers used a supercomputer to analyse hundreds of photographs of craters on Mars to search out one which matched the properties of an uncommon rock


12 July 2022

Close-up of black meteorite

The meteorite NWA 7034

Carl Agee/College of New Mexico/NASA

A meteorite that crashed to Earth greater than 5 million years in the past has now been traced to a particular crater on Mars the place it was ejected by an asteroid impression. The data provides geologists extra context concerning the uncommon rock that may present clues to the historical past of the Purple Planet.

The 320-gram meteorite was found within the Sahara desert in 2011 and named Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034. It’s the solely recognized Mars meteorite manufactured from breccia, a kind of sedimentary rock consisting of damaged fragments of rock cemented collectively by fantastic materials.

Anthony Lagain at Curtin College in Perth, Australia, and his colleagues analysed hundreds of high-resolution photographs of Mars, utilizing a supercomputer and AI software program to establish and listing round 90 million impression craters.

They scoured this listing for candidates that matched the distinctive properties of NWA 7034: it has one of many highest concentrations of potassium and thorium ever measured in a Martian meteorite and can also be one of the vital magnetised. Additionally they dominated out these craters whose chronology didn’t match with the age of the rock.

The researchers discovered that just one crater matched: Karratha. This crater is 10 kilometres throughout and sits inside one other, older crater known as Dampier. “For the primary time, we all know the geological context of the one brecciated Martian pattern accessible on Earth, 10 years earlier than NASA’s Mars Pattern Return mission is about to ship again samples,” says Lagain.

Greater than 300 Martian meteorites have been discovered on Earth and the staff now hopes to make use of the identical approach to search out the craters the place others had been ejected from the planet.

A earlier examine discovered that NWA 7034 is 2.1 billion years outdated and from a interval when Mars was slowly drying out. Earlier this 12 months, additional evaluation of the rock revealed that the asteroid bombardment of Mars greater than four billion years in the past could have ended later than beforehand thought.

Richard Greenwood on the Open College, UK, says that tracing NWA 7034 to a single crater could yield new details about the formation and historical past of Mars.

“It’s an especially distinctive Martian meteorite,” he says. “If they will say that it comes from this specific crater, for sure, that will enable them to then take a look at the geology in that space and to suit the meteorite into some type of context throughout the Martian atmosphere. It will present an terrible lot extra context to the meteorite, and in the meanwhile there’s none in any respect.”

Journal reference: Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-31444-8

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