Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rocks from Mars found on Earth

Small chunks of rock that came from the planet Mars have been found in Morocco. They came down in the form of a meteorite in July last year, but were not yet confirmed to be of Martian origin. Finding such extraterrestrial rocks is extremely rare, and they are a welcome find for scientists that study Mars: they can tell us something about the conditions on the Red Planet. Especially because the rocks are 'fresh'.

A group of scientists investigated the meteor that came down in July, and claim that the 15 pounds of rock were originally part of the planet Mars. The biggest rock weighs about 2 pounds. Over time, they will be sold to scientists studying the Red Planet, who will have to pay large sums of money for the rare rocks. According to researchers, possessing actual material from Mars offers a unique insight into the planet's characteristics. We are currently still unable to fetch rocks from the planet ourselves. We have had previous encounters with Martian meteorites, though the last one was in 1962. Oddly enough, many of the meteorites seem to hit Earth in Morocco or Antarctica.

The Martian rocks were believed to be set on a trip into space after something large hit the planet several millions of years ago. Eventually, as we saw, it ended up on Earth, where our atmosphere disintegrated them into the small pieces that are left today. Most of them will likely be in the hands of scientists eventually, if they can cough up the money. Currently, the Martian rocks are about 10 times more expensive than gold.

Analysing the rocks may tell us more about Mars' potential for life. The ones found in Morocco last July are more useful than any other previously found rocks, as many have been on Earthly ground for millions of years. They are likely to be contaminated with our soil, and therefore are no proper representation of Mars.

It is currently not known what newfound knowledge the Martian rocks may give us. It is likely that at least some new things will be uncovered, as we have been confined to studying the Red Planet with telescopes and probes hovering in Martial orbit. Recently, NASA launched its Mars rover Curiosity. It is supposed to search for life, and will cost about 2,5 billion dollars. Those rocks suddenly don't seem that expensive anymore. Additionally, scientists already showed that the conditions on Mars ought to be suitable to harbour life.

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