Sahara desert meteorite suggests water on Mars earlier than previous estimates

Scientists have analyzed a meteorite was found in the Sahara desert back in 2012. The meteorite came from Mars and is called NWA 7533. Scientists have been studying the meteorite to get an idea of its composition and what Mars may have been like 4.4 billion years ago.The meteorite's mineral composition has revealed chemical signatures of oxidation that would've occurred as water formed. The meteorite is very small, weighing in at 84 grams and part of its name comes from the fact that it was discovered in Northwest Africa. It is a remnant of a larger meteorite that broke up when entering the earth's atmosphere.

With the meteorite previously being aged at 4.4 billion years old, researchers can now adjust previous theories that Mars had water for at least 3.7 billion years. The meteorite shows that water was on the Red Planet 700,000 years before previously believed.

With indications that water was present on Mars much earlier than previously believed, indications are that the water was a natural byproduct of some process early in planet formation. Scientists hope that the discovery can help answer a lingering question of where exactly water comes from. NWA 7533 is the oldest Martian meteorite in existence.

Researchers subjected samples of the meteorite to a quartet of different spectroscopic analyses. Each of them are methods of detecting chemical fingerprints, and there was strong evidence for the oxidation of magma. The oxidation could have occurred if there was water on the Martian crust 4.4 billion years ago during an impact that melted part of that crust. The analysis also suggests that the impact that created the meteorite would have released significant amounts of hydrogen, contributing to planetary warming in a time when Mars already had a very thick atmosphere. That Martian atmosphere has now been lost.