Martian meteorites deliver a trove of information on Red Planet’s structure | Science & Technology

Mars has a distinct structure in its mantle and crust with discernible reservoirs, and this is known thanks to meteorites that scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and colleagues have analyzed on Earth.

Meteorites that formed roughly 1.3 billion years ago and then ejected from Mars have been collected by scientists from sites in Antarctica and Africa in recent decades. Scripps Oceanography geologist James Day and his colleagues report May 31 in the journal Science Advances on analyses of the chemical compositions of these samples from the Red Planet.

These results are important for understanding not only how Mars formed and evolved, but also for providing precise data that can inform recent NASA missions like Insight and Perseverance and the Mars Sample Return, said study lead Day.

“Martian meteorites are the only physical materials we have available from Mars,” said Day. “They enable us to make precise and accurate measurements and then quantify processes that occurred within Mars and close to the martian surface. They provide direct information on Mars’ composition that can ground truth mission science, like the ongoing Perseverance rover operations taking place there.”

Day’s team assembled its account of Mars’ formation using meteorite samples that all came from the same volcano, known as nakhlites and chassignites. Some 11 million years ago, a large meteor impact on Mars sheared away parts of the planet and sent the rocks hurtling into space. Some of those landed on Earth in the form of meteorites, with the first of these being discovered in 1815 in Chassigny, France and then in 1905 in Nakhla, Egypt.

Since then, more such meteorites have been discovered in locations including Mauritania and Antarctica. Scientists are able to identify Mars as their place of origin because these meteorites are relatively young, so come from a recently active planet, have distinct compositions of the abundant element oxygen compared to Earth, and…


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