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Black Beauty meteorite suggests Mars habitable earlier than Earth

Penelitian - The surface of Mars hardened rapidly into a crust that enveloped rocky planets allowing the emergence of life to form at least 100 million years earlier than on Earth. Martin Bizzarro from the University of Copenhagen and colleagues investigated a piece of Mars rocketed into the Sahara Desert and reported to new findings to Nature.

Mars has a more Earth-like history with thick atmospheres, abundant water, and global oceans. The researchers analyzed mineral zircon grains taken from a Mars meteorite known as Black Beauty and showed the outer layers of the Red Planet had hardened as early as 4.547 billion years ago or just 20 million years after the formation of the Sun.

Penelitian Black Beauty meteorite suggests Mars habitable earlier than Earth

"The formation of Mars' main crust which is the final product of planet formation happens much faster than previously thought. We show Mars could have an ocean environment and life much earlier than Earth," Bizzarro said.

The mathematical model has suggested the compaction of Mars takes up to 100 million years, but Bizzarro and the team analyzed 44 grams of the Black Beauty weighing 320 grams sufficient to extract seven zircon bits for the experiment. The decaying lead from uranium is trapped inside the zircon as the young Mars molten magma hardens.

"Zircon is like a time capsule," Bizzarro said.

The process occurs gradually in which small dust particles merge into planetesimals that collide with the planet's embryonic form on a time scale of 50 to 100 million years, but according to the new model suggests growth of the planet develops faster and is triggered by the accumulation of coated particles loosely bonded with the gas.

"Our data support new models that indicate the formation of terrestrial planets very quickly," said Bizzarro and the team.

The new timeline suggests something similar might have happened on Earth, but only after the giant impact that formed the Moon about 4.4 billion years ago. Mars is considered to have a solid metal core with a radius of about 1,800 kilometers consisting mainly of iron, nickel and sulfur.

Journal : Laura C. Bouvier et al. Evidence for extremely rapid magma ocean crystallization and crust formation on Mars, Nature, 27 June 2018, DOI:10.1038/s41586-018-0222-z

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