New research on a unique 4.4 billion-year-old Martian meteorite reveals it to be a piece of the Mars’ crust, the first of its kind to reach Earth.
In their study, scientists reported that spectroscopic measurements of the meteorite, which was found in the Moroccan desert, are a spot-on match with orbital measurements of the Martian dark plains, areas where the planet’s coating of red dust is thin and the rocks beneath are exposed.
Researchers from the Brown University, who conducted the study, stated that the Martian landscape is made up largely of such composite rocks rather than the igneous type.
Kevin Cannon, a Brown University graduate student, and a member of the team that conducted the survey, said, “The findings suggested that the meteorite, nicknamed Black Beauty, was representative of the “bulk background” of rocks on the Martian surface. This is showing that if you went to Mars and picked up a chunk of crust, you’d expect it to be heavily beaten up, battered, broken apart and put back together.”
Previously all the Martian rocks found on Earth were classified as SNC meteorites (shergottites, nakhlites, or chassignites). Those are mainly igneous rocks made of cooled volcanic material. But that was before the researchers found the Black Beauty.
Black Beauty is a breccia, a mashup of different rock types welded together in a basaltic matrix. It contains sedimentary components that match the chemical makeup of rocks analyzed by the Mars rovers. The researchers studying the rock concluded that it was a piece of the Martian crust, the first such sample to make it to Earth.
The researchers stated that the spectral match helps put a face on the dark plains, suggesting that Mars’ surface is dominated by brecciated rocks similar to Black Beauty. The dark plains are dust-poor regions; they’re thought to be representative of what hides beneath the red dust on much of the rest of the planet. They further added that the surface of Mars would be rich in Black Beauty-like breccias.