In a discovery that researchers think offers hints about the planet’s early history, artificial intelligence assisted in determining the precise origin spot of the earliest Martian meteorite.
The meteorite, formally designated as Northwest Africa 7034 and popularly known as “Black Beauty,” includes the oldest known Martian igneous material, which is thought to be about 4.5 billion years old. It was discovered in 2011 in the Sahara Desert.
Its origin has recently been determined to be a crater in Mars’ southern hemisphere’s Terra Cimmeria-Sirenum province.
According to the study’s lead scientist, Dr. Anthony Lagain of Curtin University, Black Beauty was flung to Earth by an asteroid impact on the surface of Mars some five to ten million years ago.
According to naming guidelines established by the International Astronomical Union, tiny craters must be named after places on Earth with a population of fewer than 100,000. The meteorite’s origin crater on Mars has been named Karratha after the mining town in Western Australia.
I figured a city from Western Australia would be a good idea because Black Beauty contains the oldest mineral we’ve been able to date from Mars, Lagain said.
Because Karratha is so close to the Pilbara region, home to the planet’s oldest rocks, I chose the name Karratha for the place.
Researchers analyzed the size and distribution of 94m impact craters on the surface of Mars using a machine learning algorithm to determine the meteorite’s most likely genesis point. Tens of thousands of photos obtained by the context camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter were analyzed by the AI.
The team selected one origin site out of 19 possible craters because its characteristics matched those of the meteorite.
Dr. Anthony Lagain claimed that the quest to comprehend the early geological history of Mars was what drove the search for Black Beauty’s beginnings.
The planet itself has been around for about 4.5 billion years, according to some minerals found in meteorites.
“When you examine the surface [near the Karratha crater], you discover that its makeup is quite similar to that of the continents on Earth. It might suggest that this area is a remnant of one of Mars’s earlier continents.
Lagain noted that little is known about the early evolution of planets, including Earth. Because of plate tectonics and extensive erosion, really old rocks are extremely difficult to find on Earth.
The only example of its kind on Earth, Black Beauty is a breccia, which is made up of different rock types that have been bonded together. Its age was once estimated to be 2.1 billion years old.
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