A Martian mystery may have been solved after energy beams were used to prove that the age of a Martian meteorites is actually 4 billion years younger than previously assumed.
Many scientists have been confused as to the history and evolution of Mars. One reason for this confusion has to do with Martian meteorites, long believed to be much older than they actually are. A Western University team led by Earth Sciences professor Desmond Moser has analyzed a meteorite from the Royal Ontario Museum and discovered that the rock may be 4 billion years younger than previously assumed. The meteorite was discovered to have started its life as a lava flow some 200 million years ago, and chemical signatures in the rock reveal that deep layers in the Martian rock are as old as the solar system. The research team also identified crystal structures in the rock that formed when it was ejected from Mars, allowing the team to pin point its departure time to around 20 million years ago.
Moser and his team completed the analysis using Western University’s Zircon & Accessory Phase Laboratory (ZAPLab), one of the few electron nanobeam dating facilities in the world. They analyzed the crystal structure’s growth on a polished surface of the meteorite. They managed to date the meteorite using a combination of two different methods: They measured radioactive uranium/lead isotopes, but also tried a newly developed technology from UCLA which uses oxygen ions to liberate atoms from the surface of the meteorite.
Olympus Mons, Mars’ largest super-volcano and a possible source of meteorites like the one Moser’s team analyzed
Moser estimates there are 60 meteorite fragments from Mars that can be analyzed on our planet and he believes his technique can be used on all of them. He also believes that, beyond Mars, there is much left to discover from the inner parts of our solar system: “Basically, the inner solar system is our oyster. We have hundreds of meteorites that we can apply this technique to, including asteroids from beyond Mars to samples from the Moon,”