Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy
. Mars Exploration News .

Studying meteorites may reveal Mars' secrets of life
by Staff Writers
East Lansing MI (SPX) May 03, 2013

A microscopic image of a slice of a meteorite. The various colors indicate the sizes, shapes and orientations of minerals in the rock. Image courtesy of NASA.

In an effort to determine if conditions were ever right on Mars to sustain life, a team of scientists, including a Michigan State University professor, has examined a meteorite that formed on the red planet more than a billion years ago.

And although this team's work is not specifically solving the mystery, it is laying the groundwork for future researchers to answer this age-old question.

The problem, said MSU geological sciences professor Michael Velbel, is that most meteorites that originated on Mars arrived on Earth so long ago that now they have characteristics that tell of their life on Earth, obscuring any clues it might offer about their time on Mars.

"These meteorites contain water-related mineral and chemical signatures that can signify habitable conditions," he said.

"The trouble is by the time most of these meteorites have been lying around on Earth they pick up signatures that look just like habitable environments, because they are. Earth, obviously, is habitable.

"If we could somehow prove the signature on the meteorite was from before it came to Earth, that would be telling us about Mars."

Specifically, the team found mineral and chemical signatures on the rocks that indicated terrestrial weathering - changes that took place on Earth. The identification of these types of changes will provide valuable clues as scientists continue to examine the meteorites.

"Our contribution is to provide additional depth and a little broader view than some work has done before in sorting out those two kinds of water-related alterations - the ones that happened on Earth and the ones that happened on Mars," Velbel said.

The meteorite that Velbel and his colleagues examined - known as a nakhlite meteorite - was recovered in 2003 in the Miller Range of Antarctica. About the size of a tennis ball and weighing in at one-and-a-half pounds, the meteorite was one of hundreds recovered from that area.

Velbel said past examinations of meteorites that originated on Mars, as well as satellite and Rover data, prove water once existed on Mars, which is the fourth planet from the sun and Earth's nearest Solar System neighbor.

"However," he said, "until a Mars mission successfully returns samples from Mars, mineralogical studies of geochemical processes on Mars will continue to depend heavily on data from meteorites."

Velbel is currently serving as a senior fellow at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

The research is published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, a bi-weekly journal co-sponsored by two professional societies, the Geochemical Society and the Meteoritical Society.


Related Links
Michigan State University
Mars News and Information at
Lunar Dreams and more

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

'Black Beauty' could yield Martian secrets
Washington (AFP) Jan 07, 2013
A fist-sized meteorite nicknamed "Black Beauty" could unlock vital clues to the evolution of Mars from the warm and wet place it once was to its current cold and dry state, NASA said Thursday. Discovered in Morocco's Sahara Desert in 2011, the 11-ounce (320-gram) space rock contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites and could be the first ever to have originated on the planet ... read more

Scientists Use Laser to Find Soviet Moon Rover

Characterizing The Lunar Radiation Environment

Russia rekindles Moon exploration program, intends setting up first human outposts there

Pre-existing mineralogy may survive lunar impacts

On Course for Shenzhou 10

Yuanwang III, VI depart for space-tracking missions

Shenzhou's Shadow Crew

Shenzhou 10 sent to launch site

NASA to pay Russia $424 mln more for lift into space

NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract with Russian Space Agency

Cargo spaceship docks with ISS despite antenna mishap

ISS Communications Test Bed Checks Out; Experiments Begin

'Vulcan' wins Pluto moon name vote

Public to vote on names for Pluto moons

The PI's Perspective: The Seven-Year Itch

New Horizons Gets a New Year's Workout

See Saturn at its Best and Brightest

Cassini Gets Close-Up Views of Large Hurricane on Saturn

Saturn's youthful appearance explained

Spacecraft returns dramatic images of massive hurricane on Saturn

World's major development banks look closer at Earth observation

China Successfully Sends First Gaofen Satellite Into Space

China launches high-definition earth observation satellite

Japan's Mt Fuji to get World Heritage stamp: officials

NASA's Chief Defends Commercial Spaceflight Agreements

NASA Invites the Public to Fly Along with Voyager

Google's Brin keeps spotlight on future technologies

Mysterious water on Jupiter came from comet smash

Two New Exoplanets Detected with Kepler, SOPHIE and HARPS-N

Astronomer studies far-off worlds through 'characterization by proxy'

Mysterious Hot Spots Observed In A Cool Red Supergiant

Orbital Selected By NASA for TESS Astrophysics Satellite

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement