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Mars Meteorite’s Point of Origin Determined

"black beauty" meteorite

Fragment of the Black Beauty meteorite.
Credit: NASA.

Researchers have pinpointed the exact source of “Black Beauty,” the oldest and most famous Martian meteorite on Earth.

Black Beauty, formally known as Martian meteorite NWA 7034, is the only brecciated Martian sample available on Earth, meaning it contains angular fragments of multiple rock types cemented together which is different from all other Martian meteorites that contain single rock types.

PSI Senior Scientist Gretchen Benedix was part of the research team, which was led by Anthony Lagain, from Curtin’s Space Science and Technology Centre in the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Australia.

“For the first time, we know the geological context of the only brecciated Martian sample available on Earth, 10 years before the NASA’s Mars Sample Return mission is set to send back samples collected by the Perseverance rover currently exploring the Jezero crater,” Lagain said.

“Finding the region where the ‘Black Beauty’ meteorite originates is critical because it contains the oldest Martian fragments ever found, aged at 4.48 billion years old, and it shows similarities between Mars’ very old crust, aged about 4.53 billion years old, and today’s Earth continents. The region we identify as being the source of this unique Martian meteorite sample constitutes a true window into the earliest environment of the planets, including the Earth, which our planet lost because of plate tectonics and erosion.”

Benedix said this research paved the way to locate the ejection site of other Martian meteorites, in order to create the most exhaustive view of the Red Planet’s geological history.

“We are also adapting the algorithm that was used to pinpoint Black Beauty’s point of ejection from Mars to unlock other secrets from the Moon and Mercury,” Benedix said. “This will help to unravel their geological history and answer burning questions that will help future investigations of the Solar System such as the Artemis program to send humans on the Moon by the end of the decade or the BepiColombo mission, in orbit around Mercury in 2025.”

mars site of black beauty origin

The distribution of 90 million craters on the surface of Mars obtained from the Crater Detection Algorithm. Colors indicate crater size and their intensities are linked to the crater density on the surface. Blue spots and rayed patterns are associated with the youngest and largest craters formed on the surface. The red circle pinpoints the Karratha crater that has ejected the Black Beauty meteorite, in the southern hemisphere.

Credit: Lagain et al. 2021, Nature Communications and Lagain et al. 2022, Nature Communications.

Sept. 18, 2022
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