A piece of rock that found its way from Mars to a desert in northwest Africa may help reveal the history and evolution of Mars.
Researchers pinpoint Mojave Crater, a 55-kilometer-wide-basin on the planet's equator, as the origin of the so-called "shergottites" meteorites, a family that includes about 75 percent of the roughly 150 known Martian meteorites, Discovery News reported.
Knowing where the meteorites came from will help researchers find about the history and evolution of Mars.
Researchers thought about looking at Mojave Crater as the source of the shergottites for several reasons. First, its large size meant that it was created by an impact that was powerful enough to launch debris into space. Based on the amount of cosmic ray exposure the meteorites experience in space, researchers believe that the rocks may have spent 5 million years in interplanetary space before they reached Earth.
Second, Mojave Crater is relatively young, formed from an impact which took place less than 5 million years ago on terrain roughly 4.3 billion years old, which is the same age as when the shergottites originally crystallized.
The third and final piece of proof comes from a chemical analysis of the crater made from data collected by instruments aboard Europe's Mars Express and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellites.
Scientists also found telltale chemical fingerprints of pyroxene and olivine in and around the crater, two minerals that are commonly present in the Martian meteorites.