Martian meteorite Northwest Africa 7034 (NWA 7034) mineral analysis shows the habitability of Mars 30 million years more. This finding suggests that the planet can be a livable environment for humans for more years than previously thought.
Prior to that, about billions of years ago, intense asteroid strikes called the Late Heavy Bombardment hit the inner solar system. The meteorites from these strikes were studied, suggesting that the impacts ended on Mars 4.48 million years ago. The collisions from these strikes have theoretically made the planet a great place for habitation approximately 4.2 billion years ago.
Martian meteorite gives insight into when Mars might have been habitable
Researchers studying a Martian meteorite have found the first evidence of high-intensity damage caused by asteroid impact on Mars.
Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, Black Beauty, Credit: NASA pic.twitter.com/mCkuppyEon
— Alp (@AlpSirman) March 6, 2022
Curtin University‘s Aaron Cavosie and his co-researchers recently analyzed 66 zircon grains (nicknamed Black Beauty) from NWA 7034. According to researchers, one of these 66 grains indicates signs of damage caused by the asteroid strikes.
Cavosie talks about the little lines or planes that found the high shock pressures. He explains how these pressures cause the rearrangement of atoms in zircon into a different direction.
10 years ago a Martian meteorite was found and eventually "Black Beauty" NWA 7034 was imaged and analyzed by Nicole Wilson and Mike Spilde at the U New Mexico, using a JEOL JXA-8200 microprobe. High resolution WDS X-ray map showing Na distribution in the sample. #EPMA #Mars pic.twitter.com/CRcnKsjGhg
— JEOL USA (@JEOLUSA) February 23, 2021
The evidence of high-pressure shock effects shown by researchers indicates the possibility of the bombardment having actually stopped million years later than previous researchers thought. Zircon has represented the highest shock level in the meteorite providing huge impacts.
The possibility of when the bombardment stopped also informs the researchers how long Mars needed to cool down before it could be potentially habitable. Since the hypothesis now of when it stopped has changed, it seems that the planet could hold life 4.2 billion years ago later after the asteroid strike.
Cavosie finds the shock deformations in the grain similar to the world’s three largest impact sites, such as the Chicxulub crater.
Take note that regolith breccia NWA 7034 has remnants of the earliest crust of Mars. As mentioned, previous studies on its zircon grains only detected minor deformations. Such deformations are not fount to be not diagnostic of their impact processes. The impact pressures due to the meteorite’s zircon grains suggest potential life persisted on the planet for about 4.48 billion years more.