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Monday, January 05, 2015
Studies of Mars Meteorite Show Long History of Water, Hydrogen on Planet

Studies of Mars Meteorite Show Long History of Water, Hydrogen on Planet

Further study of a meteorite from Mars showed that water and hydrogen have been present on the planet since the Noachian era, a time when water was prevalent on the planet.

The Curiosity Rover, which has been exploring Mars' Gale Crater, delivered findings that water and hydrogen were present on the planet. This was due to the discovery of methane jets on the planet as well as samples of clays taken from the dry lakebed on the planet's surface. However, thanks to meteorite Allan Hills 84001, it was discovered that not only were the elements present, but also that that they were available on the planet for far longer than was previously assumed.

The Allan Hills 84001 is around 3.9 billion years old, named for where it was found in Antarctica in the 1980s. Based on the planet's history and the meteorite's age, that puts the rock at the planet's Noachian era. It is a time when water and carbon-13 were present in huge amounts in the planet.

The study was first published online at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by scientists from the University of California, San Diego, Smithsonian Institute and NASA.

Lead author of the study and project scientist from UC San Diego Robina Shaheen stated, "Minerals within the meteorite hold a snapshot of the planet's ancient chemistry, of interactions between water and atmosphere."

The team reported measurements of the minerals contained within the meteorite Allan Hills 84001, the oldest meteorite scientists currently have from Mars. They claimed that there were ozone signals present in the carbonates contained in the meteorite, which suggested that small seas were previously present on Mars, and also discovered possible microbial life.

The team also reported that carbonates enriched in oxygen-18 and depleted in carbon-13. When compared to Mar's current atmosphere, it showed that Mars had fewer carbon-13 today than before, which may have occurred due to loss of Martian atmosphere

"We now have a much deeper and specific insight into the earliest oxygen-water system in the Solar System," Mark H. Thiemens, one of the authors of the study, stated.

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