Scientists have confirmed that 7 kilos of rocks that fell to Earth in July 2011 originated from Mars. A great fireball was spotted at the time the rocks plunged through the Earth's atmosphere, but it was not until December when the extremely rare material was found on the ground in Morocco.
The discovery has sent the scientific and meteorite collecting communities into a spin, as it is only the fifth time in history that people have witnessed falling meteorites, which have later been chemically confirmed to be of Martian origin. The previous occasion was in 1962 and in total the mass of all the Martian rocks on Earth adds up to less than 109 kilograms.
Importantly, this is an opportunity for scientists to study in detail a relatively fresh Martian sample that has only been on Earth for a few months. Astronomers think millions of years ago a massive collision between Mars and another large body scattered parts of the Red planet throughout the solar system. Eventually some of these rocks landed on Earth. It is believed that most samples have been here for many thousands of years (even millions) and hence are contaminated with Earth materials and life. The new find is therefore incredibly valuable when trying to learn about the potential for Martian life.
Even with today's high commodity prices, they don't come close to the amount you would have to part with to own a small piece of the Red planet. At current prices of between $11,000 and $22,500 an ounce, the Morocco Martian rock will cost you about 10 times as much as gold.
Chris Herd the University of Alberta meteorite expert, who heads the committee that certified the discovery and who has already bought himself a piece said "It's a free sample from Mars, that's what these are, except you have to pay the dealers for it."
Carl Agee, director of the Institute of Meteoritics and curator at the University of New Mexico added "It's incredibly fresh. It's highly valuable for that reason. This is a beauty. It's gorgeous."
The meteorites have been named Tissint by the International Society for Meteoritics and Planetary Science, which is the official group of 950 scientists that confirms and names meteorites.