Science Daily: What can a Martian meteorite teach us about Earth’s origins


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Today, it’s not so. However, the Red Planet may have had a crust that was similar to Iceland 4.5 billion years earlier. This information, which was hidden in oldest martian fragments on Earth, could give us insight into the planet’s history and help to explain how it evolved into a planet that supports a wide variety of life.

A new study published today provides these insights into Earth’s history. Nature CommunicationsAn international team, including an NAU researcher, has produced this study. The study details how they found the likely martian origin of the 4.48-billion-year-old meteorite, informally named Black Beauty. It is believed to be the origin of Mars’ oldest region.

“This meteorite recorded the first stage of the evolution of Mars and, by extension, of all terrestrial planets, including the Earth,” said Valerie Payré, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science. “Seeing ancient terrains on Mars in such ancient settings is an excellent window into the Earth’s ancient surface, as the Earth has lost much of its surface due to plate tectonics,” Payre said.

What Mars can teach us about Earth

Anthony Lagain of Curtin University in Australia led the search for the origin location of a martian meteorite. This meteorite is the first stage of Mars’ evolution, according to its chemistry. Although the meteorite was expelled from Mars’ surface around five to ten million years ago, it remains a mystery as to its origin and geological context.

The team examined the chemical and physical properties Black Beauty in order to determine where it came. They determined that it was Terra Cimmeria–Sirenum, one among the oldest regions on Mars. It could have a similar surface to Earth’s continents. It is difficult to find the right one because planets like Mars have many impacts craters. In a previous study Lagain’s team created a crater detection algorithm. It uses high-resolution images to detect small impact craters on Mars. They found about 90 million of them, some as small as 50m in diameter. They were able to identify the most likely ejection site, the Karratha Crater that excavated ejecta from an older crater called Khujirt.

“For 10 years, we know the geological background of the only Martian brecciated sample on Earth,” said Lagain (a research fellow at the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Curtin). “This research allowed us to identify the ejection site for other Martian meteorites in order to get the most complete view of the Red Planet’s history geologically.”

Payré studies the nature and formation of Mars’ crust to determine if Earth and Mars share a common past that include both a continent-like and ocean-like crust. To see if Mars may have traces of Icelandic volcanism she uses orbital images.

She stated that Mars’ complex crust is still not fully understood. Knowing the origin of these incredible ancient fragments could help future rover missions and spatial missions explore the Terra Sirenum Cimmeria region, which may reveal the truth about Mars’ evolution and possibly the Earth’s. “This work opens the way to locate other martian meteorites at the ejection sites. This will provide the most comprehensive view of Mars’ geological past and answer one of the most intriguing question: Why Mars, now dry, has evolved so differently than Earth, a planet that is thriving for life?”

The team has developed an algorithm to detect impact craters in the constellations of Mercury and the Moon. This will allow us to understand their history and answer some fundamental questions regarding their formation. This is a guideline for future explorations of the Solar System.


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