Mars attacks: meteorite shower was from red planet
Published 19/01/2012 | 05:00
They came from Mars, not in peace, but in pieces.
Scientists this week confirmed that 15lbs of rock collected recently in Morocco fell to Earth from Mars during a meteorite shower last July.
This is only the fifth time in history that scientists have chemically confirmed Martian meteorites that people witnessed falling.
The fireball was spotted in the sky six months ago, but the rocks were not discovered on the ground until the end of December.
This is a unique opportunity for scientists trying to learn about Mars's potential for life. So far, no NASA or Russian spacecraft has returned bits of Mars, so the only samples scientists can examine are those from meteorite showers.
Scientists and collectors are ecstatic, and already the rocks are fetching huge sums because they are among the rarest things on Earth.
"It's Christmas in January," said former NASA sciences chief Alan Stern, director of the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida. "It's nice to have Mars sending samples to Earth, particularly when our pockets are too empty to go get them ourselves."
A committee of meteorite experts, including some NASA scientists, confirmed test results that showed the rocks came from Mars, based on their age and chemical signature.
The last time a Martian meteorite fell and was found fresh was in 1962.