Artificial intelligence has discovered the original home of the oldest Martian meteorite

17/07/2022
Credit image: public domain - The meteorite NWA 7034
Credit image: public domain - The meteorite NWA 7034

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 17 July 2022, at 09:37 am Los Angeles time

The scientists used artificial intelligence to locate the meteorite crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars, calling it Karratha, the name of a city near the region Pilbara.

The meteorite, commonly known as "Black Beauty" and officially named Northwest Africa 7034, contains the oldest known Martian ionic material, which is approximately 4.5 billion years old. It was found in the Sahara desert in 2011.

Researchers have now identified its origin in a crater in the province of Terra Cimmeria-Sirenum in the southern hemisphere of Mars.

Dr. Anthony Lagain of Curtin University, the lead author of the study, said that "Black Beauty" arrived on Earth following the impact of an asteroid on the surface of Mars, about five to 10 million years ago.

The original crater of the Mars meteorite was named after Karratha the mining town of Western Australia by the naming conventions established by the International Astronomical Union, which states that small craters must be named after cities on Earth with a population of fewer than 100,000 residents.

"Because" Black Beauty "contains the oldest mineral we've been able to date from Mars, I thought a city in Western Australia would be a good idea," he said. "I decided to call it Karratha because Karratha is very close to the Pilbara region, where the oldest rocks on Earth are located ".

To identify the most likely place of origin of the meteorite, researchers have used a machine learning algorithm to analyze the size and distribution of 94-meter impact craters on the surface of Mars. Artificial intelligence evaluated tens of thousands of images taken by the Mars probe's context camera Orbiter recognition.

Out of 19 candidate craters, the team restricted the place of origin to one that had characteristics that matched the properties of the meteorite.

Lagain said the location of "Black Beauty" 's origin was driven by the desire to understand the impure geological history of the planet Mars. "Some minerals in meteorites are up to 4.5 billion years old, so about as old as the planet itself. When you analyze the surface [around the Karratha crater] you realize that the composition of this region ... is very close to what we find on Earth for continents. This could indicate that the region could be the relic of some very old continents from Mars ".

"We know very little about the impure evolution of the planets, including the Earth," declared Lagain. "On Earth, we have plate tectonics, we have erosion, which it does very difficult to find very old rocks".

"Black Beauty" consists of several pure rocks cemented together, the only sample of this kind from Earth. It was initially thought to be approx. 2.1 billion years.

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