A black rock nicknamed ‘Black Beauty’ and recently discovered in the Sahara desert is a new type of Martian meteorite, say scientists.
A two year study of the meteorite indicates it is different to other Mars origin rocks that have been discovered. Results of the study were published online yesterday in Science Magazine journal.
Estimated to be two billion years old, the rock’s composite contains more water than most of the red-planet meteorites known of, said The Independent.
The rock weighs in at 320g and although it’s been given a romantic moniker, is officially registered as Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034.
According to Science Magazine, heat testing on ‘Black Beauty’ showed that the amount of water it released was 6,000 parts per million — a ratio that is 1o times higher than that of other Mars rocks. Scientists believe this means the rock came into contact with water near Mars’ surface when the planet was mostly dry and dust ridden.
At 2.1 billion years, the rock’s age makes it the second oldest known Martian meteorite that formed from a volcanic eruption.
“Here we have a piece of Mars that I can hold in my hands. That’s really exciting,” said Carl Agee, director of the Institute of Meteoritics and curator at the University of New Mexico who led the study.
Scientists believe that an asteroid, or some other large cosmological object hit Mars, which freed rocks and launched them into space. Most of the rocks that have fallen to Earth as meteorites come from asteroid belts, but some can be traced to the moon and Mars.
Often discovered by accident, commercial trade in meteorites can be a highly lucrative one with some artefacts selling for thousands of dollars.
‘Black Beauty’ was donated to the University of New Mexico by an American who bought it from a Moroccan meteorite dealer in 2012, said The Independent.