Happy Birthday Nakhla!

100 years ago today (28th June 1911) the Nakhla meteorite was seen to fall from the sky in Egypt (allegedly killing a dog a the process!). This turned out to be an exciting find as Nakhla originated on Mars and provided the first evidence of processes involving water in a Martian meteorite (Bunch & Reid, 37th Meteoritical Society Meeting, 1974) indicating the presence of water on Mars.

Only around 30 Martian meteorites have been found on Earth so far. Clues that meteorites come from other planets and not asteroids include:

  • younger ages
  • high volatile contents

Definitive evidence that certain meteorites (including Nakhla) are from Mars came from the Viking spacecrafts that measured gases in the Martian atmosphere. The trapped gases in Nakhlar matched the gases measured by Viking.


All images courtesy of NASA.


About Jennifer Claydon

I'm a PhD student studing xenon in meteorites. I am interested in what the chemical and physical environment of the early solar system was like. I also study the timing of events in the early solar system.
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3 Responses to Happy Birthday Nakhla!

  1. Sarah Crowther says:

    Frontiers on BBC Radio 4 tonight (Wednesday), at 9pm, is about Nakhla

  2. Happy birthday Nakhla! May be that in my collection, I possess also a Nakhla Martian Meteorite… This mysterious, miraculous and fabulous Mineral(gem)stone was found in the late ’90 in the Middle East. It’s approx.1,3 Kg of weight, it’s length is 9cm, it is 8 cm broad and 6,5 cm high. It is shining golden, silvery and is blinking in the light. It has the same chemical specification and looks similar! May be that it could be of interest for scientific research for life on Mars?
    With my best regards.

    • Sarah Crowther says:

      As I’ve just written in reply to an other comment, there’s a lot more to indentifying a meterorite than just its appearance and physical properties.
      The only way to confirm beyond doubt whether a sample is a meteorite or not is by thorough chemical analysis, which is both costly and time consuming. But there are some pointers you can look for, and if your rocks satisfy all the criteria they may be meteorites. Have a look at this page from the University of New Mexico, which shows you the characteristics to look for, as well as giving examples of “meteorwrongs” (a name comonly given to rocks people think are meteorites but in reality are normal, terrestrial rocks). There are also some good examples of meteorwrongs at this site from the Washington University in St Louis.

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