Researchers have traced the oldest known Martian meteorite to its exact point of origin using artificial intelligence (AI), and the results could help reveal what conditions are on our planet. solar systemthe Russian planets were as they were in the very first days.
An 11-ounce (320-gram) meteorite, officially named Northwest Africa 7034 but commonly known as the “Black Beauty”, is believed to have crashed into Earth approximately 5 million years ago. When discovered in the Sahara desert in 2011, it was just under 4.5 billion years old, making it the oldest Martian meteorite ever found on Earth.
Scientists believed that the meteorite was launched to Earth after a powerful asteroid impact hit Mars, tearing apart parts of the planet’s crust and scattering them into space. Now, using a machine learning algorithm to identify and catalog 94 million craters on Mars, researchers have traced the Black Beauty’s origin to a small crater inside a crater in Mars’ southern hemisphere. Scientists named the crater Karratha after the Australian mining town where many of Earth’s oldest rocks were found. They published their findings on July 12 in the journal Connection with nature (will open in a new tab).
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“Finding the area where the Black Beauty meteorite formed is critical because it contains the oldest Martian fragments ever found, which are 4.48 billion years old, and shows similarities between the very old Martian crust, which is 4.48 billion years old. about 4.53 billion years old, and the Earth’s continents today,” lead author Anthony Lagaine, a planetary scientist at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, said in a statement. “The region we identify as the source of this unique Martian meteorite specimen represents a veritable window into the earliest environment of the planets, including Earth, which our planet lost due to plate tectonics and erosion.
To determine the meteorite’s starting point, the researchers fed images of 94 million Martian craters taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s context camera into a machine learning algorithm. The AI matched the size and distribution of the craters to the material properties of the errant meteorite, which has some of the highest concentrations of potassium and thorium of any Martian meteorites found on Earth and is one of the most magnetized. This narrowed down the list of possible craters to 19, one of which stood out to the team because it exactly matches the chronology of the Martian impact and the properties of the meteorite.
While studying the impact crater, scientists discovered that Black Beauty was sent to Earth thanks to two asteroid impacts. The first, which crashed into Mars and created the 25-mile-wide (40 kilometers) crater Hujirt roughly 1.5 billion years ago, violently tore Black Beauty and other rocks out of the Martian crust, sending them high into the atmosphere before they rained down again. to the surface of the Red Planet. Then, after a 5-10 million year reprieve, a second impact sent Black Beauty into space towards Earth and left behind Karratha Crater inside Hujirt Crater.
The findings suggest that the rock was once part of Mars’ primordial crust – the original crust of the Red Planet that formed shortly after its magma ocean cooled and solidified. Because plate tectonics has eroded the Earth’s original crust, and the Moon’s original crust is buried under thousands of meters of lunar dust, this makes the crater especially interesting for scientists who want to study how the bodies of our solar system first formed.
Not only can the algorithm locate other Martian meteorites, the researchers say they also want to adapt their algorithm to perform similar searches on the Moon and Mercury.
“This will help unravel their geological history and answer burning questions that will help future exploration of the solar system, such as the Artemis program to send people to the Moon by the end of the decade, or the BepiColombo mission to orbit around Mercury in 2025. co-author Gretchen Benedix, a planetary scientist at Curtin University, said in a statement.
Originally published on Live Science.
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