back to article Supercomputer pinpoints exact origin of 'Black Beauty' meteorite from Mars

An international team thinks it has managed to pinpoint which part of Mars a 4.5 billion year old meteorite found on Earth came from. The rock – known as Black Beauty, or more prosaically NWA 7034 – has intrigued scientists since its discovery in 2011 because it's the oldest Martian igneous rock ever identified.  Finding NWA …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    One can only assume

    That there was an earth-shattering kaboom!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One can only assume

      A mars-shattering kaboom shirley...

      1. RSW

        Re: One can only assume

        Who are you calling Shirley?

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Just imagine it ......

    Wow! Jackanory lives.

  3. RSW

    The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, he said

    1. AVR

      But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten. - Terry Pratchett

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      A million to one?

      A million to one against what frame of reference? This is a meaningless pseudo-statistic unless the frame of reference is provided. For example:

      The probability of my dropping dead eventually is one (100%)., but (I sincerely hope) the probability of my dropping dead before I finish typing this post are vastly lower - say zero point uhhhh..........

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Re: A million to one?


        That one looked like it was headed for London.

    3. that one in the corner Silver badge

      The chances of finding out where it came from on Mars are a million to one, he said.

      Hmm, haven't quite got the scansion right.

      1. Mike 16

        The chances of finding ... are a million to one, he said.

        "The chances of finding out where it came from on Mars are a million to one",

        Tom said, oddly.

        And when did they start naming meteorites for hip hop artists?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK, stupid question time

    How do they know this bit of rock came from Mars?

    Assuming it has, am I seriously suppose to believe they have really pinpointed it's origin? Maybe on a Friday afternoon in the pub I would. But today is only Thursday...


    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: OK, stupid question time

      Its martian origin was confirmed by pyroxene analyses (Fe/Mn ratios)and noble gas measurements that match measurements of the martian atmosphere. This meteorite is a breccia with a basaltic bulk composition and initially classified as a porphyritic basaltic monomict breccia clasts containing a wide variety of textures and include gabbros, quenched melts, and oxide rich reaction spherules. Other portions of the breccia contain plutonic lithic clasts such as monzonites and norites, basalts, and impact melt clasts. This is a very heterogeneous breccia!

      Initial studies of NWA 7034 determined that the meteorite's bulk composition coincides with the composition of the average martian crust determined from mission data. This bulk composition also matches some of the rocks and soils measured in Gusev Crater by the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) and in fact, this meteorite represents the strongest link between a martian meteorite and the geochemistry of the martian surface determined by remote sensing.

    2. WhereAmI?

      Re: OK, stupid question time

      It's called a super computer or three.

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: OK, stupid question time

      I call this the "I'm not an expert but I reckon" fallacy.

      There are people who devote their lives to a career in this field. I suspect they are quite good at knowing what they are talking about when it comes to positively identifying a bit of rock as having originated on another terrestrial body.

      On the other hand, not having any expertise in the field, and not being trained in the relevant scientific disciplines, or having read the literature on the subject (of which there is an abundance), your opinion is wholly unqualified, and therefore wrong.

      This particular fallacy has a large prevalence on the internet. You only have to see the vast number of people spouting off about how they saw a video on youtube showing that X Y or Z is fake or wrong, and science is lying to us to see how easy it is to believe that one's own uninformed opinion is somehow right whilst those who actually know something about the subject are wrong.

      See also: Climate change denial, Trumpism, the NRA, anti-vaxxers and so on ad nauseum.

      The ironic thing is that that scientific literature is now more easily available than it ever was if people actually bothered to go and read it. Most authors of scientific papers will be more than happy to send you a copy free-of-charge for the asking (the journals that want to charge you for it don't give them any money whether they do or not)

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: OK, stupid question time


        I regret that I have but one upvote to give this post. I give you high marks for civility, precision, and completeness.

        See also: Dunning-Kruger Effect.

        As I've gotten older, I have come to ask myself more and more, "How much do I really know about this subject? Am I qualified to be expressing an opinion on it?" When the answer to the latter question is "no," I try to keep my trap shut and pay attention to the people who are (or seem) qualified.

      2. brainwrong

        Re: OK, stupid question time

        I often think some better write-ups would help. I read this article and don't know if it came from Khujirt crater or Dampier crater, or why they think it seems to have travelled from one to the other. I read about this meteorite a few days ago in an article written by an academic. They made no mention of it originating from multiple craters, but explained that using machine learning they found 94,000,000 craters, eliminated around 80,000, and were left with 19 candidates. Whilst I'm sure someone knows what they're doing, I'm stiff baffled as to what that actually was.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Re: OK, stupid question time

        > I call this the "I'm not an expert but I reckon" fallacy.

        Which is closely related to the "But have they allowed for X?" comment, where X is usually blindingly obvious but, somehow, they think they have thought of something the scientists involved have missed.

      4. Diogenes

        Re: OK, stupid question time

        But when others who know just as much, or more about the subject and can actually understand statistics (climate change, vax) what are we lay people to do.

    4. xeroks

      Re: OK, stupid question time

      It's not a stupid question to my mind, but my expection was that there was a reasonable explanation to be had.

      My follow-up stupid question is: how did someone know to pick this particular stone up and investigate where it came from? And give it a name?

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: OK, stupid question time

        The (short) answer to that one: because geologists.

        The (longer) answer is that, to the trained eye, a rock that doesn't belong there sticks out like a sore thumb, and, if you are lucky, does so whilst sitting at the bottom of a hole that wasn't there yesterday.

        I don't know if this particular meteorite was found shortly after it struck, or was picked up some time later. However, once spotted, meteorites tend to have distinctive patterns of melting and impact shock, which pretty well signal that they have come from space. Once you've established that, physical, chemical and isotopic analysis will pinpoint its origin pretty well. For example, iron meteorites that form in deep space tend to have beautiful and very distinctive crystallisation patterns.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Loyal Commenter (assuming your comment was aimed at me, my sincere apologies if it was not)

    "There are people who devote their lives to a career in this field. I suspect they are quite good at knowing what they are talking about when it comes to positively identifying a bit of rock as having originated on another terrestrial body."

    Where did I say that this rock didn't come from another terrestial body?

    Nor did I state anything that's even a distant cousin to an opinion.

    @John Robson

    Why do a c/p from the link you have posted? Ok so I use a Mac but I do know how to use a link...

    1. Cuddles

      "Ok so I use a Mac but I do know how to use a link..."

      But not a reply button apparently...

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Well, the phrase "am I seriously suppose to believe" is generally taken to mean, "I don't believe".

      It may not have been the intention of your comment, but it came across, strongly, as "I don't know how they can tell this, so I don't believe that they can."

      The fallacy here is that just because you can't work something out, it doesn't follow that someone else can't.

      Incidentally, this is the exact same reason why Bruce Schneier is pretty hot on pointing out that home-brewed computer security (or security by obscurity) is no security at all. Anyone can come up with an encryption mechanism that they can't break themselves. Almost all of these mechanisms will have some flaw that means someone else will be able to break it, with trivial effort.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Beyond the jokes

    This is an amazing bit of science. First, the ongoing analysis of Black Beauty. Then the analysis of all the Martian craters that have been surveyed and eventually finding just one that matches Black Beauty's composition and age (most craters were ruled out based on composition, some remaining craters were ruled out on age).

    It may not be a one in a million shot, I don't think there are a million surveyed craters. It's more detecting a needle in a bunch of haystacks by using a remote sensor to measure the iron content of each haystack.

    A pint for the boffins. Just don't spill any on the supercomputer.

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