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Green meteorite in Morocco may be from Mercury

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Scientists have discovered that the green meteorite found in Morocco last year may be the first ever to have originated from Mercury - the closest planet to the Sun.

The meteorite found in the African country last year could have come from the solar system's innermost planet, according to meteorite scientist Anthony Irving from the

The latest study unveiled at the 44th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas suggests that a space rock called NWA 7325 came from Mercury, and not an asteroid or Mars, SPACE.Com reported.

NWA 7325 is actually a group of 35 meteorite samples discovered last year in Morocco. They are ancient, with scientists dating the rocks to be 4.56 billion years old.

"It might be a sample from Mercury, or it might be a sample from a body smaller than Mercury but [which] is like Mercury," Irving said, adding a large impact could have shot NWA 7325 out from Mercury to Earth.

The NWA 7325 meteorite is unlike anything found on Earth before, Irving noted.

Meteorites from Mars are imbued with some Martian atmosphere, making them somewhat simple to tell apart from other rocks.

And space rocks from Vesta, one of the largest asteroids in the solar system, are also chemically distinct, but NWA 7325 does not resemble any space rock documented till now.

According to Irving, the meteorite was created and eventually ejected from a planet or other body that had flowing magma on its surface at some point in its history. Evidence suggests that the rock could have been formed as "scum" on the top of the magma.

NWA 7325 has a lower magnetic intensity - the magnetism passed from a cosmic body's magnetic field into a rock - than any other rock yet found, Irving added.

Data sent back by NASA's Messenger spacecraft currently in orbit around Mercury shows that the planet's low magnetism closely resembles that found in NWA 7325, Irving said.

According to the report, scientists familiar with Mercury's geological and chemical composition think that the planet's surface is very low in iron.

Interestingly, the meteorite is also low in iron, suggesting that wherever the rock came from, its parent body resembles Mercury.

First Published: Sun, March 31 2013. 12:40 IST