Featured image: ‘Cacao’ meteorite in Gale crater, Mars – MastCam mosaic comprised of 19 images. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.
Paper: Spectral Diversity of Rocks and Soils in Mastcam Observations Along the Curiosity Rover’s Traverse in Gale Crater, Mars
Author: Rice M S et al., (2022)
On the 28th January 2023 NASA’s MSL Curiosity rover team confirmed the rock ‘Cacao’ as an iron-nickle (Fe-Ni) meteorite on the surface of Mars. Curiosity captured images of a silvery-grey rock, very distinctive among the beige-red sedimentary landscape it is currently exploring. Cacao is a ‘float’ rock, meaning is it not embedded within the bedrock and is not where it formed. Float rocks are common on Mars, but many can be traced back to the upper ledges of slopes they have fallen from, or as ejecta from a nearby impact. Cacao has joined a special group of float rocks that are distinct in appearance, genetic composition, and origin.
Continue reading “‘Cacao’ meteorite and other Fe-Ni meteorites on Mars”
Featuring image: 66 million years ago, a giant meteorite impact ended the age of the dinosaurs. Artist impression of the impact. Painting by Donald E. Davis, Public Domain (C0)
Paper: The Nadir Crater offshore West Africa: A candidate Cretaceous-Paleogene impact structure
Authors: U. Nicholson, V. J. Bray, S. P. S. Gulick, B. Aduomahor
The appearance of a flaming, 10 km wide meteorite over the Gulf of Mexico must have been striking, literally. But could the meteorite, which killed the dinosaurs, have had a small sibling or even a whole family of smaller space rocks hurtling towards Earth?
The massive meteorite impact at Chicxulub in the Gulf of Mexico ended the era of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Now, only a few thousand km apart from it, researchers might have found another, smaller crater of a similar age. And it might show that the Chicxulub meteorite was not alone but part of a cluster of meteorites, bombarding the Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period.
Continue reading “Chicxulub’s small sibling”
Paper: Organic synthesis associated with serpentinization and carbonation on early Mars
Authors: Steele A, Benning LG, Wirth R, Schreiber A, Araki T, McCubbin FM, Fries MD, Nittler LR, Wang J, Hallis LJ, and Conrad PG.
The discovery of organic carbon in Martian meteorites has fueled scientific debates for more than four decades. Could these molecules be the chemical residue of Martian life?
Continue reading “Martian Past Revealed by New Analysis of 4 Billion-year-old Meteorite”
Featured Image: A sample of the mineral schreibersite, a possible source of meteoric phosphorus. CC-BY 3.0, via Wikimedia commons.
Paper: Phosphorus mineral evolution and prebiotic chemistry: From minerals to microbes
Authors: Craig R. Walton, Oliver Shorttle, Frances E. Jenner, Helen M. Williams, Joshua Golden, Shaunna M. Morrison, Robert T. Downs, Aubrey Zerkle, Robert M. Hazen, Matthew Pasek
With a swift strike, a match bursts into flame. Life, like the flame, burst into existence almost 4 billion years ago, and as with the sparking of the match, phosphorus was a key ingredient. Phosphorus, element 15, is at the center of energy production in cells, forms cell walls, and provides the backbone for DNA.
Continue reading “Hunting for phosphorus on early Earth”
Featured image: A person exploring the rocks of a cave on Earth, Pixabay.
Paper: Earth-like Habitable Environments in the Subsurface of Mars
Authors: J.D. Tarnas, J.F. Mustard, B. Sherwood Lollar, V. Stamenković, K.M. Cannon, J.-P. Lorand, T.C. Onstott, J.R. Michalski, O. Warr.
Mars exploration has been looking “up” recently: the Ingenuity helicopter performed the first powered flight on another planet, and veteran rover Curiosity gave us stunning images from the top of Mount Mercou. But if we want to look for life on Mars, it might be time for us to look down instead. New research suggests that life on present day Mars could be sustained by chemical energy produced through the interaction between water and rocks deep underground, like it is here on Earth.
Continue reading “The only way is… down? Groundwater on Mars could support microbial life in the present day”
Featured Image: The star-forming nebula W51 is one of the largest “star factories” in the Milky Way galaxy, NASA/JPL, Public Domain (CC0)
Paper: Origin of hydrogen isotopic variations in chondritic water and organics
Authors: L. Piani, Y. Marrocchi L.G.Vacher H. Yurimoto M. Bizzarro
Vast blue oceans, swirly rain or fluffy white snow – water is ubiquitous on Earth. But where does the water of our solar system come from?
A group of researchers were able to investigate the isotopic composition of water in different components of meteorites. Their findings hint that some of the water on Earth may have originated from a source beyond the solar system.
Continue reading “Strange water — the source of water in our solar system”
Paper: Amino acid abundances and compositions in iron and stony‐iron meteorites
Authors: Jamie E. Elsila, Natasha M. Johnson, Daniel P. Glavin, José C. Aponte, Jason P. Dworkin
All known life on Earth relies on amino acids. Many important biomolecules like proteins are made up of them. Scientists were surprised when they found these molecules, which are so strongly connected to living systems, in meteorites. How amino acids form in non-biological systems is still not entirely understood and is closely tied to the question of how life emerged on our young planet.
Continue reading “Are we star dust?”
Featured Image: Zircon grain under the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). Image used with permission from Wikipedia (Emmanuel Roquette).
Article: The internal structure and geodynamics of Mars inferred from a 4.2-Gyr zircon record.
Authors: Maria M. Costa, Ninna K. Jensen, Laura C. Bouvier, James N. Connelly, Takashi Mikouchi, Matthew S. A. Horstwood, Jussi-Petteri Suuronen, Frédéric Moynier, Zhengbin Deng, Arnaud Agranier, Laure A. J. Martin, Tim E. Johnson, Alexander A. Nemchin, and Martin Bizzarro
While sitting in Geology 101 studying the geological time scale, most of us have gone through this experience where we imagined ourselves going back in time; visualizing mammoths passing by, dinosaurs hunting and fighting. But all these pictures start to become hazy and unclear when we reach close to 4 billion years. It is the time for which we have no rock records, and this is where zircons or what I would like to call “tiny survivors” comes in.
Continue reading “Tiny Crystals, Big Story: Time capsules from the Early Mars”
Paper: Astronomical context of solar system formation from molybdenum isotopes in meteorite inclusions.
Featured image: Artistic impression of the protoplanetary disk. Image used with permission from Wikipedia (A. Angelich).
Authors: Gregory A. Brennecka, Christoph Burkhardt, Gerrit Budde, Thomas S. Kruijer, Francis Nimmo, Thorsten Kleine.
If you ask a cosmochemist what the oldest objects in the solar system are, they will swiftly answer the Calcium Aluminium Inclusions (CAIs), a small light-coloured inclusion within primitive meteorites known as Chondrites (see figure 2C). However, if you ask what event in the solar system evolution CAIs correspond to, it is a more challenging question. Previously, CAI formation was associated with the various evolutionary stages of our Sun. However, as the timescale of evolution of Sun, calculated to be around 1 million years by observing Sun like stars, is longer than the CAI forming period (~ 40,000 – 200,000 years), the association between CAI formation and the early stages of our Sun is not always clear. In a quest to put the CAI formation in an astronomical context, a recent study from Brennecka et al. analysed CAIs present within various Carbonaceous chondrite meteorites and linked the CAI formation to a specific stage in the Sun’s evolution.
Continue reading “Capturing Early Sun within meteorite inclusions”
Paper: Earth’s water may have been inherited from material similar to enstatite chondrite meteorites
Authors: Laurette Piani, Yves Marrocchi, Thomas Rigaudier, Linel G. Vacher, Dorian Thomassin, Bernard Marty
To date, Earth is the only planetary object known to have extensive bodies of liquid water (H2O) at its surface. Water is fundamental to supporting life as we know it with every single organism on our planet requiring water to survive. Even our own human bodies are made up of 60-70% water. However, the origin of Earth’s water has long been debated.
Continue reading “Tracing the origin of Earth’s water with meteorites”