Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Meteorites yield Mars water clues

Rare fragments of martian meteorites have revealed evidence of how water once flowed near the surface of that planet, U.K. researchers say.
Scientists at the University of Leicester have examined five samples of nakhlite -- a form of meteorite known to have originated on Mars and named after the Egyptian village of el-Nakhla where the first one was found in 1911 -- using an electron microscope, a university release said Wednesday.
The samples showed veins created during an impact on Mars and filled with clay, carbonite and other materials probably carried there by water from ice melted in the impact, John Bridges of Leicester's Space Research Center says.
The discovery closely ties in to recent geological discoveries of clay and carbonate on the surface of Mars made by NASA and European Space Agency probes, and suggests how some of it probably formed.
"We are now starting to build a realistic model for how water deposited minerals formed on Mars, showing that impact heating was an important process," Bridges said.
"With models like this we will better understand the areas where we think that water was once present on Mars."

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