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Scientists say ancient Martian rock was full of water

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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An examination of the Martian meteorite known as NWA 7034 determined it is 2.1 billion years old and is water-rich. …

A 2 billion year old Martian rock appears to have at one time been full of water from the surface of the Red Planet.

"Here we have a piece of Mars that I can hold in my hands. That's really exciting," Carl Agee, director of the Institute of Meteoritics and curator at the University of New Mexico, told the Associated Press.

Agee led a team of scientists who published their report on the newly discovered meteorite, nicknamed Black Beauty, in the journal Science. The rock is estimated to have contained 6,000 parts per million water, and scientists believe it likely interacted with water at a time when most of the planet’s surface was believed to have been arid.

The baseball-size rock was discovered in the Sahara, and scientists say it contains more evidence of water than any of the other known Martian rock samples.

"It's fairly fresh. It hasn't been subjected to a whole lot of weathering," University of Alberta meteorite expert Chris Herd told the AP.

Billions of years ago, an eruption on the surface of Mars, likely caused by a volcano or asteroid collision, sent the rock into space, where it eventually made the journey to Earth. Agee and his team said the sample is “strikingly similar to the volcanic rocks examined by the NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity on the Martian surface.”

Over the years, scientists have collected more than 60 Martian rock samples, with most being discovered in the Sahara and Antarctica. The new sample is much older than most of the other specimens, which are about 600 million years old or younger. The oldest known sample is an estimated 4.5 billion years old.

A private owner donated the Black Beauty finding to the University of New Mexico.

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