A rare Martian meteor has been given to the Natural History Museum in London for research.
The ‘Red Planet’ is generally the closest planet to the Earth (depending on the day, month or year) and the 1.1kgTissint rock to the right was donated to the London museum by an anonymous holder. This makes it the largest in the Mars collection. It was seen landing in Morocco in late July 2011 and was picked up quickly by the benefactor, just a tiny part of the Tissint meteorite.
Researchers at the museum hope the geology of Tissint will give information about possible life on Mars in the past and whether this could happen in the future. To reach Earth from such a distance, it would’ve needed an explosion of great force to propel out into the Martian atmosphere and towards Earth. It is also very heat-resistant to survive the extreme thermal energy from falling so quickly. Have you ever seen a film of a giant meteor twisting and burning before it hits the ground? It’s exactly like that!
Just 61 of the 41,000 known meteorites have come from Mars, the last observed one in Nigeria in 1962, 5 decades ago. Dr Caroline Smith, the meteorite curator at the Natural History Museum explained the situation: “This meteorite is the most important meteorite to have landed on Planet Earth in the last 100 years. Tissint fell in a dry area, and was picked up soon after it fell and has absolutely minimal contamination. It is as if it has just been blasted off Mars. It is effectively a pristine sample of Mars.“
Staff will use computed tomography to look at the internal structure of the rock, specifically for water and carbon-based molecules. Life as we know it needs energy, water and carbon, and if they can find traces of this it could suggest that Mars may be inhabited by lifeforms. The real aliens! They already know it contains many glass-like particles called maskelynite (formed through the sheer force on impact). Real glass is formed in the same way, by pressing sand very tightly.
Nobody knows how much the meteorite chunk would sell for, but usual ones of this size have sold from £10k-£20k. However, the moon meteorite in 1993 went for over a quarter of a million pounds, so it’s possible that this one could sell for a high price.
What do you think? Were you the anonymous donator who just happened to be in Morocco at the time? Or were you a little less lucky? Leave your thoughts below!
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