Through the study of a popular Martian meteorite’s age, a University of Houston professor and his team have made significant discoveries about...
Through the study of a popular Martian meteorite’s age, a University of Houston professor and his team have made significant discoveries about the timeline of volcanic activity on Mars.
Thomas Lapen, assistant professor of geosciences at UH, describes his team’s findings in a paper titled “A Younger Age for ALH84001 and its Geochemical Link to Shergottite Sources in Mars,” appearing April 16 in Science, the world’s leading journal of original scientific research, global news and commentary.
ALH84001 is a thoroughly studied, well-known Martian meteorite. This stone is unique among Mars rocks available for study on Earth, since its formation age is more than 2.5 billion years older than any other recognized Martian meteorite, giving scientists the only sample of material formed early in Mars’ history. Data from this rock may help geologists better understand, through analogy, the processes of early Earth evolution.
Lapen and his colleagues’ data showed that the true age of this meteorite is 4.091 billion years old, about 400 million years younger than earlier age estimates. They concluded that this stone formed during an important time when Mars was wet and had a magnetic field, conditions that are favorable for the development of simple life. This finding precludes ALH84001 from being a remnant of primordial Martian crust, as well as confirming that volcanic activity was ongoing in Mars over much of its history.