Odds of Life on Mars Boosted: Scientists Analyzed the Crust of a Martian Meteorite


Researchers published a new study on 27 June, showing that the crust that surrounds Mars could have made life on Mars possible. The crust encased the Red Planet 100 million years earlier than when our planet got encased in its crust.

Scientists extracted zircon from the Black Beauty, a Martian meteorite. Analyzing the zircons, they found out that the outer layer of the Red Planet got hardened 20 million years after the Sun was born, which make is 4.547 billion years ago.

Martin Bizzarro is a scientist at the Centre for Star and Planet Formation in Denmark, and also the senior author of the study that he published in the online journal Nature. He explains in an interview that:

“Mars’s primary crust formation — which is the end product of planet formation — happened much faster than previously thought. Our results indicate that Mars could have had an environment with oceans, and potentially life, much earlier than Earth.”

The Black Beauty meteorite was found in the Saharan Desert in 2011, and it weighed only 320 grams (11 ounces). Researchers preserved 44 grams of the space rock, crushing five grams to extract seven bits of zircon to analyze.

Scientists measured the lead decaying from uranium, which was trapped in zircon when the magma on Mars got harder. This way, scientists could precisely find the period when the zircon formed.

“Zircon is like a time capsule.” – Martin Bizzarro

Planet formation can be explained through two models. But the results of Bizzarro’s study now support the second and most recent model.

The second model theorizes that planets grow quickly, fueled by “pebble accretion”, which is an accumulation of layers of particles bound with gases. The authors said that their study “supports newer models indicating the very rapid formation of terrestrial planets.”

Bizzarro explains that the same thing happened to our planet after the impact that formed the Moon almost 4.4 billion years ago.


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