Research Paper: Meteorite Offers 2-Billion-Year-Old Glimpse of Mars Sindya

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¶ … Meteorite Offers 2-Billion-Year-Old Glimpse of Mars

Sindya Bhanoo, New York Times, 3 January 2013

URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/science/space/in-ancient-meteorite-hint-there-was-life-on-mars.html?ref=science&_r=0

The article covers a study led by the University of New Mexico that happened upon a meteorite in the Sahara Desert. The study was ran by planetary scientist Carl B. Agee. The object in question was a 0.7 pound meteorite fragment from Mars. It becomes one of about 100 other known meteorites that also came from the planet Mars. Most Martian meteorites found are roughly 200 million years old. The method used to discover the object was searching and surveying in the Sahara Desert at the point at which it was found. Like other meteorites found in the past, it was studied to ascertain its water content in parts per million so as to verify whether or not it was consistent with prior meteorites from Mars that have been found or it was higher or lower. This measurement is used as a metric as to whether life existed on Mars or not and, if projected as being so, when exactly the life existed. The study used the measured water content to date the age of the meteorite. Any water that is found to be present is locked into the mineral structure of the meteorite's surface. The findings of the study were published in a journal for academic review. The particular journal that the study was published in was Science (Bhanoo).

The main finding about this meteorite that took scientists aback was the fact that it had 6,000 parts per million in water content whereas most of the prior 100 or so meteorites found only had about 200 parts per million. This finding, in large part, led the study's leaders to ascertain that the meteorite is 20 times as old as the other Martian meteorites that have been found. This would make the meteorite roughly 2 billion years old. The study theorized that the meteorite came from an active volcano during what is known as the Amazonian period, which is the most geologic epoch on Mars. The actual composition of the meteorite, aside from the higher water content, is consistent with other rocks found as well as findings and telemetry from rovers and satellites. It was also theorized that the fragment came from the planetary crust of the planet Mars and probably had high water content because it came from an area of underground water or from surface water at the site of the volcanic explosion. The study concluded that life very well could have existed on Mars roughly 2.1 billion years ago, but the study's spokesperson did concede that it was simply a possibility based on what is known and theorized at this time (Bhanoo).

As for whether this research could be relevant or important to anyone other than astronomers, the answer the author of this response would give is that aside from people fixated on whether life on other planets exists and people that have a strong interest in astronomy in general, the level of interest would likely be fairly muted. This is especially true, in all likelihood, since the theorized "life" was billions of years ago. The research should continue but should be as limited as possible when times are tough, such as they were in 2007-2009, as there is not really a short-term (or even known long-term) benefit to knowing whether life existed (or exists) on Mars.

The article did stick to what the author of this paper expected. However, it is interesting that this meteorite is so much older and has so much more water than other meteorites. Water, of course, is necessary for life to exist (at least based on what we know of what life requires) and this discovery and the theorized age of the rock indicates that perhaps life did exist on Mars at some point. Even so, it is really all guesswork to some extent given that there is not yet any clear-cut evidence that life existed on Mars. On the other hand, 2.1 billion years is a long, long time.

Article Title: Icing on a Lake

Source: JPL Press Release

URL: http://www.astrobio.net/pressrelease/5255/icing-on-a-lake

The research team referenced in this article was… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Meteorite Offers 2-Billion-Year-Old Glimpse of Mars Sindya."  Essaytown.com.  January 29, 2013.  Accessed November 16, 2019.
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