Martian Meteorite

Martian meteorite


A view of a thin section through a Martian meteorite found at Nakhla, Egypt, in 1911. The sample is lit from below with polarised light, then another polarising filter is placed between the sample and the eyepiece. Different minerals rotate polarised light by different amounts creating characteristic colours, so the technique allows scientists to determine the minerals present. This rock is a clinopyroxinite consisting largely of augite and olivine with smaller amounts of other minerals. It is thought that this rock formed around 1.38 billion years ago on Mars. It was blasted from the surface of the planet by a huge impact event, meandering its way through the Solar System for an unknown time before hitting the Earth’s atmosphere and breaking up. This sample is approximately 13mm across.

Image © Natural History Museum, London BM1913, 2642 and the Open University virtual microscope

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