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New Martian Meteorite Discovered In California

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SKY & TELESCOPE'S NEWS BULLETIN - FEBRUARY 4, 2000

NEW MARTIAN METEORITE DISCOVERED IN CALIFORNIA

About 20 years ago, Robert S. Verish was on a rock-collecting trip in Southern California's Mojave Desert. While walking around, he spotted a couple of dark basaltic rocks. Interested, Verish scooped them up, took them home, and put them in a box for safe keeping.

It wasn't until last October that Verish realized he stumbled upon a great find. While cleaning, he noticed that the rocks he collected looked surprising like meteorites. Excited, he brought samples of each rock to geochemist Alan Rubin (University of California, Los Angeles). Rubin confirmed the rocks to be meteorites and noted the similarity they had to a Martian meteorite discovered in Antarctica in 1994. "It was immediately obvious it was similar to Martian meteorites," says Rubin. "Within two minutes we were convinced."

"There may be other pieces out there," Rubin notes. "The problem is we don't know where 'out there' is. If we knew specifically where it was, we could look out there for more."

This find brings the current number of known Martian meteorites to 14, and the Los Angeles meteorites are only the second piece of Mars to be found in the United States. The first, named Lafayette, was discovered in Indiana in 1931.

Meteorites are known to be of Martian origin largely for two reasons. First, gases trapped in the rock match that of the Martian atmosphere. Second, the rock's oxygen isotopic ratios are unlike other meteorites or any Earth rock, but they match the ratios found on Mars. The rocks were likely ejected from Mars during a large impact event, making their way to Earth in less than a million years.


Copyright 2000 Sky Publishing Corporation. S&T's Weekly News Bulletin and Sky at a Glance stargazing calendar are provided as a service to the astronomical community by the editors of SKY & TELESCOPE magazine. Widespread electronic distribution is encouraged as long as these paragraphs are included. But the text of the bulletin and calendar may not be published in any other form without permission from Sky Publishing (contact permissions@skypub.com or phone 617-864-7360). Updates of astronomical news, including active links to related Internet resources, are available via SKY & TELESCOPE's site on the World Wide Web at http://www.skypub.com/.

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