Studying meteorites may break Mars’ secrets of life

A microscopic ikon of a spell of a meteorite. The diverse colors betoken the sizes, shapes in addition to orientations of minerals inwards the rock.

And although this team’s move is non specifically solving the mystery, it is laying the groundwork for futurity researchers to answer this age-old question.
The problem, said MSU geological sciences professor Michael Velbel, is that most meteorites that originated on Mars arrived on basis in addition to then long agone that straightaway they bring characteristics that say of their life on Earth, obscuring whatever clues it mightiness offering close their fourth dimension on Mars.
“These meteorites incorporate water-related mineral in addition to chemic signatures that tin signify habitable conditions,” he said. “The problem is yesteryear the fourth dimension most of these meteorites bring been lying roughly on basis they alternative upward signatures that await only similar habitable environments, because they are. Earth, obviously, is habitable.
“If nosotros could somehow attempt the signature on the meteorite was from earlier it came to Earth, that would hold out telling us close Mars.”
Specifically, the squad institute mineral in addition to chemic signatures on the rocks that indicated terrestrial weathering — changes that took house on Earth. The identification of these types of changes volition supply valuable clues every bit scientists proceed to examine the meteorites.
“Our contribution is to supply additional depth in addition to a lilliputian broader sentiment than some move has done earlier inwards sorting out those 2 kinds of water-related alterations — the ones that happened on basis in addition to the ones that happened on Mars,” Velbel said.
The meteorite that Velbel in addition to his colleagues examined — known every bit a nakhlite meteorite — was recovered inwards 2003 inwards the Miller Range of Antarctica. About the size of a lawn tennis ball in addition to weighing inwards at one-and-a-half pounds, the meteorite was ane of hundreds recovered from that area.
Velbel said yesteryear examinations of meteorites that originated on Mars, every bit good every bit satellite in addition to Rover data, attempt H2O in ane lawsuit existed on Mars, which is the 4th planet from the Sun in addition to Earth’s nearest Solar System neighbor.
“However,” he said, “until a Mars mission successfully returns samples from Mars, mineralogical studies of geochemical processes on Mars volition proceed to depend heavily on information from meteorites.”
Velbel is currently serving every bit a senior beau at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History inwards Washington D.C.
The enquiry is published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, a bi-weekly mag co-sponsored yesteryear 2 professional person societies, the Geochemical Society in addition to the Meteoritical Society.