The history of research on meteorites from Mars
Monica M. Grady, 2006. "The history of research on meteorites from Mars", The History of Meteoritics and Key Meteorite Collections: Fireballs, Falls and Finds, G.J.H. McCall, A.J. Bowden, R.J. Howarth
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It has been almost 25 years since the widespread acceptance of the presence of meteorites from Mars in the world’s collections. The martian meteorites differ from meteorites from the asteroid belt in that they have crystallization ages younger than 4.568 billion years; evidence for a martian origin rests on the presence of trapped martian atmospheric gases within the specimens. The first three martian meteorites, Shergotty, Nakhla and Chassigny, gave their names to the groups into which the specimens were all placed: the SNCs. Since then this group has grown to over 30 members, and is divided into seven subgroups. The acronym ‘SNC’ is no longer appropriate, and the meteorites are simply referred to as ‘martian’. The meteorites are all igneous, most are shocked and many show evidence of martian aqueous activity. Study of martian meteorites is a valuable complement to spacecraft observations of Mars, and helps in the understanding of primary magmatic and secondary alteration processes occurring on Mars.
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This Special Publication has 24 papers with an international authorship, and is prefaced by an introductory overview which presents highlights in the field. The first section covers the acceptance by science of the reality of the falls of rock and metal from the sky, an account that takes the reader from BCE (before common era) to the nineteenth century. The second section details some of the world's most important collections in museums - their origins and development. The Smithsonian chapter also covers the astonishingly numerous finds in the cold desert of Antarctica by American search parties. There are also contributions covering the finds by Japanese parties in the Yamato mountains and the equally remarkable discoveries in the hot deserts of Australia, North Africa, Oman and the USA. The other seven chapters take the reader through the revolution in scientific research on meteoritics in the later part of the twentieth century, including terrestrial impact cratering and extraordinary showers of glass from the sky; tektites, now known to be Earth-impact-sourced. Finally, the short epilogue looks to the future.
The History of Meteoritics and Key Meteorite Collections should appeal to historians of science, meteoriticists, geologists, astronomers, curators and the general reader with an interest in science.