Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Studying meteorites may reveal Mars' secrets of life

Date:
May 1, 2013
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
In an effort to determine if conditions were ever right on Mars to sustain life, a team of scientists has examined a meteorite that formed on the Red Planet more than a billion years ago.

A microscopic image of a slice of a meteorite. The various colors indicate the sizes, shapes and orientations of minerals in the rock.
Credit: Image courtesy of NASA

In an effort to determine if conditions were ever right on Mars to sustain life, a team of scientists, including a Michigan State University professor, has examined a meteorite that formed on the Red Planet more than a billion years ago.

And although this team's work is not specifically solving the mystery, it is laying the groundwork for future researchers to answer this age-old question.

The problem, said MSU geological sciences professor Michael Velbel, is that most meteorites that originated on Mars arrived on Earth so long ago that now they have characteristics that tell of their life on Earth, obscuring any clues it might offer about their time on Mars.

"These meteorites contain water-related mineral and chemical signatures that can signify habitable conditions," he said. "The trouble is by the time most of these meteorites have been lying around on Earth they pick up signatures that look just like habitable environments, because they are. Earth, obviously, is habitable.

"If we could somehow prove the signature on the meteorite was from before it came to Earth, that would be telling us about Mars."

Specifically, the team found mineral and chemical signatures on the rocks that indicated terrestrial weathering -- changes that took place on Earth. The identification of these types of changes will provide valuable clues as scientists continue to examine the meteorites.

"Our contribution is to provide additional depth and a little broader view than some work has done before in sorting out those two kinds of water-related alterations -- the ones that happened on Earth and the ones that happened on Mars," Velbel said.

The meteorite that Velbel and his colleagues examined -- known as a nakhlite meteorite -- was recovered in 2003 in the Miller Range of Antarctica. About the size of a tennis ball and weighing in at one-and-a-half pounds, the meteorite was one of hundreds recovered from that area.

Velbel said past examinations of meteorites that originated on Mars, as well as satellite and Rover data, prove water once existed on Mars, which is the fourth planet from the sun and Earth's nearest Solar System neighbor.

"However," he said, "until a Mars mission successfully returns samples from Mars, mineralogical studies of geochemical processes on Mars will continue to depend heavily on data from meteorites."

Velbel is currently serving as a senior fellow at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

The research is published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, a bi-weekly journal co-sponsored by two professional societies, the Geochemical Society and the Meteoritical Society.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Julie D. Stopar, G. Jeffrey Taylor, Michael A. Velbel, Marc D. Norman, Edward P. Vicenzi, Lydia J. Hallis. Element abundances, patterns, and mobility in Nakhlite Miller Range 03346 and implications for aqueous alteration. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 2013; 112: 208 DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2013.02.024

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Studying meteorites may reveal Mars' secrets of life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130501193212.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2013, May 1). Studying meteorites may reveal Mars' secrets of life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130501193212.htm
Michigan State University. "Studying meteorites may reveal Mars' secrets of life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130501193212.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) The smallest of Saturn's main moons, Mimas, wobbles as it orbits. Research reveals it might be due to a global ocean underneath its icy surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins