August 16, 2022

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Artificial intelligence reveals exactly where the famous Martian meteorite comes from

Artificial intelligence reveals exactly where the famous Martian meteorite comes from

This is important, as it provides geological clues about the early development of Mars.

In 2011, a special meteorite was found in North Africa. This was because not only did he come from space, but it turned out that he was expelled from the planet Mars after a thorough analysis. The Martian meteorite, dubbed NWA 7034 – but soon became affectionately known as “Black Beauty” – is very rare; It is one of the few Martian rocks found on Earth. And now, researchers have once again delved into the meteorite in hopes of discovering its source.

black beauty
Black beauty is one of the rarest rocks on earth. So it is not incomprehensible that this meteorite has been extensively studied over the years. The meteorite is a unique Martian breccia, which means that the rock is made up of irregular fragments of ancient rock. In addition, it consists of several pieces of the crust of Mars. Some of them are earlier dated between 4.42 and 0.07 billion years ago.

Black beauty meteorite. Photo: NASA

However, the exact origin of the meteorite is unknown. And this while it could reveal a lot about the early development of Mars. That’s why the researchers published the new study in Nature ConnectionsTo search for the “birthplace” of black beauty.

Artificial intelligence
Armed with artificial intelligence, the team embarks on this seemingly impossible task. They used one of the fastest supercomputers and analyzed a very large number of planetary images, in order to discover impact craters on Mars. Next, the researchers looked for spots that shared important features and characteristics with the meteorite.

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Origin
The researchers come with good news. Because they were able to trace the origin of Black Beauty. The meteorite appears to have originated in an area known as Terra Cimmeria-Sirenum, located in the southern hemisphere of Mars. Black Beauty is believed to have been thrown from the Red Planet during a violent asteroid impact between five and ten million years ago. The impact created a large crater on Mars that researchers named Karratha after the remote mining town in Western Australia where one of Earth’s oldest rocks was previously discovered.

Black beauty’s journey from Mars to Earth. Photo: Lagain et al. , 2022, Nature Communications

“For the first time, we know the geological context of the only Martian breccia ever found on Earth,” researcher Anthony Laggen said happily. “And that’s ten years before NASA launched a mission to return Mars samples.” During this mission, samples collected by the Persevering Mars rover will be retrieved from Jezero Crater and brought back to Earth. We hope these pieces of rock collected will reveal a lot about the past possibility of Mars habitation and expand our understanding of past Mars. But now Black Beauty is giving us a sneak peek.

critical importance
According to Lagain, it is crucial that we now know exactly where the famous Martian meteorite comes from. “It contains the oldest Martian fragments that have ever been found,” the researcher explains. In addition, parallels are shown between the very ancient crust of Mars and the present-day Earth’s continents. Finally, the region we have now identified as the origin of Black Beauty gives us a glimpse into the first conditions on this planet – and those on Earth. Unfortunately, due to plate tectonics and erosion, such environments were lost on our planet a long time ago.”

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The researchers now plan to determine the origin of other Martian meteorites as well. In this way, they hope to get the largest possible picture of the entire geologic history of the still-mysterious Red Planet. “In addition, we want to use the same algorithms to unravel the mysteries of the Moon and Mercury,” said researcher Gretchen Benedix. “This will help reveal their geological history as well, as well as answer pressing questions that may be useful for future missions to the Moon and Mercury.”