Feeds

Mars attacks! Morocco pelted with rocks from the Red Planet

Ochre space bonanza worth ten times its weight in gold

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Excited boffins have confirmed that a meteorite shower over Morocco last July dumped about 7kg of Martian rocks on our planet.

The find is only the fifth time that scientists have been able to tell that a witnessed meteor shower contained samples from the Red Planet.

It's quite handy for Martian meteors to land on Earth since no spacecraft has yet been able to get to the ochre world and bring specimens back. Aside from the scientific benefits, the rarity of the samples also means they're worth quite a lot of money, more than ten times as much as gold.

The bulletin from the International Society for Meteoritics and Planetary Science, naming the meteor Tissint, said that the rocks came down on July 18 last year.

"A bright fireball was observed by several people in the region of the Oued Drâa valley, east of Tata, Morocco," the investigating scientists said. "One eyewitness, Mr Aznid Lhou, reported that it was at first yellow in colour, and then turned green illuminating all the area before it appeared to split into two parts. Two sonic booms were heard over the valley. In October 2011, nomads began to find very fresh, fusion-crusted stones in a remote area of the Oued Drâa intermittent watershed."

The boffins conducted chemical tests to prove the stones were Martian in origin. Astronomers believe that something big smashed into Mars millions of years ago, sending debris spinning out into the solar system that occasionally ends up here on Earth.

"It's Christmas in January," former NASA sciences chief and director of the Florida Space Institute Alan Stern told newswire The Associated Press. "It's nice to have Mars sending samples to Earth, particularly when our pockets are too empty to go get them ourselves."

Four universities have managed to get their hands on some of the materials, but the remainder is in the hands of traders and collectors, including dealer Darryl Pitt. His website shows the Tata meteorites on sale at between $375 and $650 a gram, while today's gold price is hovering around $53 a gram.

Boffins who get a hold of the samples hope the rocks haven't been too contaminated by their six month stay on Earth to provide further information on the composition of Mars. Those who are hugely optimistic might be harbouring hopes that the rocks could give some indications of whether or not the Red Planet could sustain life, although that's quite unlikely.

The kind of rock that could hold water or life is soft and unlikely to survive falling through Earth's atmosphere, Steve Squyres, principal investigator for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Programme, told AP. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.