Scientists have identified more than 50 meteorites that have come from Mars. Suspicions about their origin were first raised when meteorites that appeared to be volcanic rocks were found to have ages of about 1.3 billion years instead of the 4.5 billion years of all other meteorites. These rocks had to have come from a body that was geologically active in the comparatively recent past, and Mars was the most likely candidate. The rocks also have similar ratios of oxygen isotopes, which are distinctively different from those of Earth rocks, lunar rocks, and other meteorites. A Martian origin was finally proved when it was found that several of them contained trapped gases with a composition identical to that of the Martian atmosphere as measured by the Viking landers. The rocks are thought to have been ejected from the Martian surface by large impacts. They then went into solar orbit for several million years before falling on Earth. Claims in the mid-1990s of finding evidence for past microscopic life in one of the meteorites, called ALH84001, have been viewed skeptically by the general science community.
Little was learned about the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, after their discovery by American astronomer Asaph Hall in 1877 until orbiting spacecraft
The Martian moons, Phobos (left) and Deimos (right), photographed by the Viking orbiters. Deimos's smooth surface is contrasted with the grooved, pitted, and cratered surface of Phobos. The prominent cavity on the end of Phobos is the crater Stickney. The images are not to scale; Phobos is about 75 percent larger than its companion. NASA/Malin Space Science Systems observed them a century later. Viking 1 flew to within 100 km (60 miles) of Phobos and Viking 2 to within 30 km (20 miles) of Deimos. The Viking spacecraft discovered that both moons are irregular chunks of rock, roughly ellipsoidal in shape. Phobos and Deimos are not visible from all locations on the planet because of their small size, proximity to Mars, and near-equatorial orbits.
Was this article helpful?