Saturday 20 January 2018

Meteorite found in Morocco came from Mars

Nick Collins

FRAGMENTS of a meteorite which landed in Morocco last summer are extremely rare chunks of the planet Mars, scientists have announced.

The rock was seen falling to Earth in a fireball last July but was not found on the ground until December, when collectors began speculating it had come from the red planet.

Tests overseen by a panel of international experts have now confirmed their suspicion – only the fifth time in history scientists have officially recognised a meteorite which people witnessed falling as being Martian.

Even before the official test results museums, universities and NASA scientists were offering dealers vast sums for samples, which are among the rarest items on the planet.

One dealer, who acquired the rocks from the people who found them, said he charges between £7,200 ($11,000) and £15,000 ($22,500) per ounce and has already sold most of his stock.

The prices value the rock at about ten times the worth of gold.

Meteorite expert Chris Herd, who heads the committee that certified the find, said he had already bought a chunk, describing it as "a free sample from Mars ... except that you have to pay the dealers for it."

Astronomers believe that millions of years ago something large collided with Mars, spraying rock into space where it began gliding through the solar system until a piece entered Earth's atmosphere.

It fragmented as it descended and one large piece reached the ground where it broke up into smaller pieces weighing about 15lb (7kg), some individual lumps weighing more than 2lb (1kg).

The event is the first of its kind since 1962 and will provide scientists with valuable samples from Mars that no space mission has ever been able to bring back to Earth.

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