Saturday, January 21, 2012

World's Newest Mars Rock

Hey Space Placers!

The newest invader from Mars has been confirmed. A huge fireball that was observed last summer falling over Morocco turned into a successful hunt for the meteorite(s) that were thought to have survived the trip through Earth's atmosphere.  What made this meteorite discovery even more special was the origin of the found 15 pounds of space rocks - Mars.

Earth is hit probably every single day by meteorites. With Earth being 75% covered by water, it is little wonder that we find so few. When a suspected space rock is found it must be confirmed by scientific analysis before it can be truly declared to be a space rock or meteorite. In the case of this meteorite it is a very rare find - a Mars meteorite that was observed to fall to Earth in that blazing fireball event last July. Such meteorite "falls" do not occur very often. Meteorites are usually the result of a "find" - an event when a suspected space rock is found and submitted for confirming analysis. This is only the fifth time in history that a Mars fall has occurred.

On Earth we have about 240 pounds of Mars in our collective possession. I have 5 pieces of Mars in my meteorite collection and they look very, very different  than my lunar and asteroid meteorites. They look almost greenish-gray and very alien......unlike anything I have seen on Earth.

With it being unlikely that we will get to Mars with a sample return mission anytime soon, these meteorites are our best bet to study the Red Planet through actual samples. We have been studying Mars from afar first with our telescopes, then by our flyby and orbital missions and now with our Mars Rovers and soon with Mars Scientific Laboratory Curiosity.

One Martian Meteorite really stirred the pot here on Earth back in the '90's when it was announced that life had been found in the interior of ALH-84001. This incredible announcement is still being debated in science circles that study meteorites and astrobiology. It is still undecided if this meteorite contains fossils from Mars or can be explained using more conventional means. Maybe Curiosity will help tip the scales one way or another.

Read More About It:

Mars rocks fell in Africa last July
This handout photo provided by Darryl Pitt of the Macovich Collection shows an external view of a Martian meteorite recovered in December 2011 near Foumzgit, Morocco following a meteorite shower believed to have occurred in July 2011.

Mars is getting bright in the night sky, rising in the east at about 11 p.m. It looks orangish-red and is easy to spot due to its' color and brightness. Take a look at Mars and if you get a chance look at it with a telescope. The polar cap is prominent as are main features. We are entering a major new phase of exploration of the Red Planet this year with Curiosity. I think it will be very, very interesting.

Sky Guy in VA

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