News24

Rare invasion from Mars

2012-01-17 22:32

Washington - Scientists are confirming a recent and rare invasion from Mars: meteorite chunks from the red planet that fell in Morocco last July.

This is only the fifth time scientists have confirmed chemically Martian meteorites that people witnessed falling. The small rock refugees were seen in a fireball in the sky six months ago, but they were not discovered on the ground in North Africa until the end of December.

Scientists and collectors of meteorites are ecstatic, and already the rocks are fetching big money because they are among the rarest things on Earth.

A special committee of meteorite experts, which includes some Nasa scientists, confirmed the test results on Tuesday. They certified that 7kg of meteorite recently collected came from Mars. The biggest rock weighs over 1kg.

Astronomers think millions of years ago something big smashed into Mars and sent rocks hurtling through the solar system. After a long journey through space, one of those rocks eventually landed on Earth.

It plunged into Earth's atmosphere, splitting into smaller pieces, and one chunk shattered into shards when it hit the ground.

This is an important and unique hands-on look at Mars for scientists trying to learn about the planet's potential for life. So far, no Nasa or Russian spacecraft has returned bits of Mars, so the only Martian samples scientists can examine are those that come here in a meteorite shower.

Most other samples had been on Earth for millions of years, or at the very least for decades, which makes them tainted with Earth materials and life. These new rocks, while still likely contaminated because they have been on Earth for months, still are purer and better to study.

Sample from Mars

The last time a Martian meteorite fell and was found fresh was in 1962. All the Martian rocks on Earth add up to under 110kg.

The new samples were scooped up by dealers from those who found them. Even before the official certification, scientists at Nasa, museums and universities scrambled to buy or trade these meteorites.

"It's a free sample from Mars, that's what these are, except you have to pay the dealers for it," said University of Alberta meteorite expert Chris Herd, who heads the committee that certified the discovery.

He already has bought a chunk of meteorite and said he was thrilled just to hold it, calling the rock "really spectacular".

One of the principal decisions the scientists made on Tuesday was to connect these rocks officially to the July fiery plunge witnessed by people and captured on video.

The announcement and naming of these meteorites - called Tissint - came from the International Society for Meteoritics and Planetary Science, which is the official group of 950 scientists that confirms and names meteorites.

Meteorite dealer Darryl Pitt, who sold a chunk to Herd, said he charges from $11 000 to $22 500 an ounce, and he has sold most of his already. At that price, the new Martian rock costs about 10 times more per ounce than gold.

Comments
  • GrootWitHaai - 2012-01-17 22:58

    It's perhaps L Ron Hubbard coming to collect all his Scientologist disciples in his spaceship.

      Boer - 2012-01-18 00:19

      The only rare invasion from Mars are the dum ANC Lot.

      Phillip - 2012-01-18 06:03

      could also be them airplanes that got lost in the bermuda triangle, sending home a message, did any-body check to see if there was a bottle with a message in it. Second thoughts, it would melt re-entering earth.

  • karsten.kaminski - 2012-01-18 02:21

    aay.. wenna

  • akaRags - 2012-01-18 03:05

    Now who wouldn't mind a small Mars meteorite landing in their backyard, as long as it didn't damage your house or injure you - at + 10 US grand an ounce, there's a asmall fortune to be made in ET debris..........

  • Charmaine - 2012-01-18 03:39

    I wish I were there to see this with my own eyes.

  • david.roets - 2012-01-18 05:44

    If no samples have ever been collected from Mars, who's to say taht these are from there? Could be from anywhere!

      Eugene - 2012-01-18 07:14

      Unmanned space probes to Mars did the required chemical analysis of Martian soil and rock.

      Mike - 2012-01-18 07:53

      The composition of Mars is well known, samples have been taken and analysed by the rovers but these rocks have not been returned to Earth.

  • Phillip - 2012-01-18 06:00

    mmm, rocks being thrown from mars. did any one check malema's pasport lately. me thinks some instigating is going on, maybe he wants a goverment change on mars to, and they are all toy-toying and throwing rocks. KOES OU GROTE, HIER KOM 'N DING

      Anthony - 2012-01-18 06:12

      they all jumped together!

  • Winston Harris - 2012-01-18 06:49

    All that cash... For a rock.... All that attention... For a rock... Martians probably looking down at us and thinking... These humans are dumb... And i could also never get why we hold such a high price for gold as well... Its a crap metal in any case... But yeah, ppl and their material attachments.

      Nibiru - 2012-01-18 07:33

      Yes we spend so much time, effort and so called money, shape it into blocks (ingots) and store it back in the ground (Fort Knox)

  • Adrian - 2012-01-18 07:45

    When the UFO crashed into the desert in Navada, the US were quick to deny it ever happened. Now they want us to believe there is life on Mars?

      Victor - 2012-01-18 07:55

      I guess you are referring to the Roswell incident? And I guess with "UFO" you are attempting to point to an alien craft? It has never been proven it was a UFO - how can you be so sure? Did you read the article? The say "This is an important and unique hands-on look at Mars for scientists trying to learn about the planet's potential for life" POTENTIAL. They did not claim there was life and that this somehow proves it.

  • Yvonne - 2012-01-18 07:58

    and how exactly do they know it is from Mars..........did they collect any rocks from mars before, did they see it coming from mars?????

      Victor - 2012-01-18 08:03

      Yvonne. Your question has been answered by Eugene and Mike above. Scientists know the chemical composition of martian rocks because unmanned probes have been sent there. It is a neighbouring planet, something crashed into it, and one of those fragments fell to Earth.

      Phillip - 2012-01-18 08:04

      it has a "MADE ON MARS" stamp on the bottom....

      Eugene - 2012-01-18 08:14

      Mars rocks are of course actually made in China. We can tell because detailed chemical analyses show they are made of cheap plastic, contain traces of highly toxic industrial waste, and they crumble to dust within a week of purchase.

  • Werner - 2012-01-18 09:07

    Yawn!

  • Victor - 2012-01-18 14:24

    LMAO - Mr C, you are sneaky. You delete your comment to hide your silly comment and lack of debating skills? If it upsets you that people disagree with you, or take you on when you post ignorant nonsense, rather don't post

      Mr C - 2012-01-18 15:10

      lol, that little rant make you feel better?

      Victor - 2012-01-18 15:15

      Mr C The only one acting like a petulant child is you. Why did you delete your comment?

      E=MC2 - 2012-01-18 15:34

      You were right Vic... if im not adding value or insight to something, then why comment ;)

  • ludlowdj - 2012-01-19 12:01

    Amazing how this only makes headlines a year later.

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