Roughly 4.4 billion years ago the planet Mars was in its initial stages of creation. Later on, as asteroids or meteors struck the planet, debris would be sent off into outer space some of which landed on this planet. With that in mind, scientists believe they have discovered the oldest piece of Martian debris on record. The rock has been affectionately nicknamed "Black Beauty". The rock was initially dated as being two billion years old, but further tests of another portion indicate it is 4.4 billion years old. That makes the rock an early piece of the Red Planet.
It is believed that this rock was part of a Martian meteorite formed roughly 100 million years ago during a period of heavy volcanic activity on the planet. As per Professor Munir Humayan, the rock is likely from the cratered terrains of Mars' southern highlands region.
“It contains zircons for which we measured an age of 4,428?±?25 million years, which were later disturbed 1,712?±?85 million years ago,” lead scientist Prof Munir Humayan said.
He explained: “The crust of Mars must have differentiated really quickly, rather than gradually over time. There was a big volcanic episode all over the surface, which then crusted up, and after that the volcanism dropped dramatically.
“When it did this it also must have out-gassed water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and other gases to produce a primordial atmosphere... and also a primordial ocean.”
The rock was found in the Sahara Desert and scientists are now studying it for signs of life. However, the task of separating the inevitable life forms that would have taken up abode in a rock resting on this planet for 100 million years will not be easy to do. It is believed that the rock definitely comprises an ancient piece of the Red Planet's crust.
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Black Beauty rock 'is oldest chunk of Mars'