Sunday 28 June 2020

nakhlite type

The classification of Martian meteorite (see also) that was the first of its kind to suggest the presence of water and then for a tantalisingly brief time nearly a century later as technology and analysis methods improved microbial life, named for the Egyptian village of El Nakhla El Bahariya were it fell, broken up by the heat of entry into about forty samples raining down, on this day in 1911.
They are ejecta of volcanic rock from the plains Elysium Mons that was able to escape the planet’s gravity through a violent asteroid impact, wandering through space for ten million years before being captured by Earth, occasionally impacting over the past ten thousand years.  Though likely apocryphal since there were no remains recovered and no other corroborating witnesses, astronomers still repeat the legend and it’s become a mascot in the field of meteor studies, a local farmer recounts how a fragment landed directly on his canine helper, vaporising the animal without a trace, the so-called Nakhla dog.  In 1999, a sample previously unexposed to earthly elements was cleaved off and studied using a powerful scanning electron microscope revealing a matrix of pores very similar—though not conclusively so—to the traces that bacteria would leave in rocky substrate on Earth, leading many researchers to conclude that the Red Planet at least at one point harboured the niche environment that could support life.