04/01/13 15:09 CET
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A meteorite that is billions of years old may provide the link between the warm, wet past and the cold, dry present on the planet Mars.
Discovered in Morocco in 2011 and known as NWA 7034 or ‘Black Beauty’, the meteorite is believed to be 2.1 billion years old.
Scientists have found 10 times more water in it than other meteorites from Mars.
“The age of NWA 7034 is important because it is significantly older than most other Martian meteorites,” said scientist Mitch Schulte with the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“We now have insight into a piece of Mars’ history at a critical time in its evolution.”
The meteorite is an excellent match for surface rocks and outcrops NASA has studied remotely via Mars rovers and Mars-orbiting satellites.
“This Martian meteorite has everything in its composition that you’d want in order to further our understanding of the Red Planet,” said Carl Agee, leader of the analysis team and director and curator at the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics in Albuquerque.
“This unique meteorite tells us what volcanism was like on Mars two billion years ago. It also gives us a glimpse of ancient surface and environmental conditions on Mars that no other meteorite has ever offered.”
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