Martian Nakhlites Hold Clues For Planet’s Mantle Water


Martian nakhlite Miller Range 03346 found in Antarctica, one of the meteorites analyzed in the study, shown as an individual stone (left) and under cross-polarized light in thin-section (right). Image credit: NASA-JSC, ANSMET

A new study led by Anne Peslier (NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston) investigates the water contents and hydrogen isotope ratios of nakhlites, which are martian meteorites derived from volcanic lava or shallow intrusions in the planet’s crust. The new work suggests evidence for crystallization, degassing, and interaction of the rocks with hot fluids — effects that collectively alter their water and hydrogen systematics. Some of the magmatic hydrogen is preserved, however, in pyroxene crystals in the samples. While the portion of the martian mantle probed by the nakhlite meteorites has water contents similar to the Earth’s upper mantle, hydrogen isotopes indicate that water delivery to the early Earth and Mars via impacts of volatile-rich asteroids may have been different.

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