A rare Martian meteorite recently found in Morocco contains minerals with 10 times more water than previously discovered Mars meteorites, a finding that raises new questions about when and how long the Mars had conditions suitable for life.
The rock is believed to be similar to those studied by NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on opposite sides of Mars in 2004 to look for signs of past water. Spirit is no longer operational, but in August Opportunity was joined by the new and more sophisticated Curiosity rover, which will be searching for chemistry and environmental conditions necessary to support microbial life.
The meteorite, known as Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, is the second-oldest of 110 named stones originating from Mars that have been retrieved on Earth. Purchased from a Moroccan meteorite dealer in 2011, the black, baseball-sized stone, which weighs less than 1 pound, is 2.1 billon years old, meaning it formed during what is known as the early Amazonian era in Mars' geologic history. The only older Mars meteorite found so far is the 4-billion-year-old Allan Hills 84001 Antarctica stone that was the source of speculation about microfossils in 1996.
Early Mars was believed to be warm and wet, but the planet lost most of its atmosphere and its surface water to become a cold, dry desert that appears today.
Boston GlobeHubble provides first census of galaxies near cosmic dawnAstronomy MagazineThis new image of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) 2012 campaign reveals a previously unseen population of seven faraway galaxies, which are observed as they...
Astronomers analysed the energy being carried away from a huge quasar – the bright centres of distant galaxies which are powered by supermassive black holes and spew out vast amounts of matter.
Scientists have long claimed that extraordinarily powerful quasars must exist and play a key role in the formation of new galaxies, but until now none had been discovered which came close to their predictions.
Now measurements of a quasar known as SDSS J1106+1939 have established that it releases energy with about two million million times the power output of the Sun – the type of very high energy proposed by theorists. The team of scientists, who made their observations using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), calculated that a mass equivalent to 400 Suns is given off by the quasar each year, at a speed of 800km per second. Dr. Nahum Arav of Virginia Tech University, who led the study, said: “We have discovered the most energetic quasar outflow known to date ... I’ve been looking for something like this for a decade, so it’s thrilling to finally find one of the monster outflows that have been predicted."
Theorists claim that the existence of quasars with such a powerful outflow of energy could solve a number of unanswered questions in cosmology, such as how the central black hole mass of galaxies helps determine the overall mass of the galaxy, and why the universe has so few very large galaxies.
Until now it was unclear whether quasars were powerful enough to produce such vast galaxies as some seen in the distant universe, but the researchers established that both SDSS J1106+1939 and one other quasar each have tremendous outflows.
They are now studying a further 12 similar quasars to determine whether the same is true of other luminous quasars spread across the universe.
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