September 7, 1999

Water found in 2nd meteorite

(CNN) -- NASA researchers have cracked open another meteorite and found what looks like tiny pockets of briny water from deep space, a finding that comes 11 days after a similar report in a science journal on a different rock chunk that fell to Earth.

Meteorites are thought to record the conditions of the early solar system so the two back-to-back findings excite those searching for water beyond Earth and the life that water could have supported billions of years ago.

Asteroid specialist Michael Zolensky thinks he has found tiny droplets of water on the Zag meteorite, a 300-pound space rock that landed in a remote area of Morocco last year, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday.

Full story.

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The 8,100 residents of Monahans, Texas, will forever remember March 22, 1998 -- the day that a couple of meteorites plunked onto their town from the sky. The larger piece landed not far from seven children playing basketball. Their find eventually netted $23,000 when sold during an Internet auction. The smaller piece made its way to the laboratories of NASA's Johnson Space Center, whose scientists have found something amazing inside it: liquid water. "This is the first water found in any extraterrestrial object," notes investigator Michael E. Zolensky (NASA/JSC). More remarkably, the microscopic droplets are trapped in purplish crystals of nearly pure salt (NaCl or halite). Apparently the 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite has quite a story to tell. "It takes a large body of water to make large halite crystals," Zolensky says. "This object got pretty wet." Many primitive carbon-bearing meteorites contain water-altered minerals like clays, but Monahans is an ordinary chondrite that has been heated to more than 700 deg. Celsius. One possibility is that the briny droplets resulted when the Monahans's asteroidal parent body collided with a comet. Isotopic studies of the tiny water sample should shed light on its true origin. Details of Zolensky's analysis appear in the August 27th issue of Science magazine.

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Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, August 27, 1999

By Kathy Sawyer

A Meteoric Discovery: Extraterrestrial Water

'Exciting' Find May Predate Solar System

A meteorite that whistled into a West Texas yard last year contained the first extraterrestrial water ever captured on Earth, scientists reported yesterday.

Like a cosmic message in a bottle, the microscopic bubbles of primordial water are locked inside crystals of halite, the mineral that makes up table salt, but in this case has been turned blue and purple by radiation. The crystals and their liquid cargo appear to date from the dawn of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago.

The discovery provides scientists their first chance to study actual samples of water that may have existed in interstellar space before the sun and planets were born. It also suggests that there was much more water on early asteroids than anyone suspected, the researchers said, and it could help reveal the unknown processes by which this essential ingredient of life was distributed in the early solar system.

Full story here./a>

BBC News Sci/Tech: Water found in meteorite

By Greg Clark Staff Writer

Water of the Stars

Aug 26, 1999

A pair of scorched rocks that fell from space onto a west Texas town last year may have delivered a bonanza to planetary scientists that could turn out to be the most significant discovery in years: purple extraterrestrial salt and miniature bottles of primordial water.

A team of scientists led by Michael Zolensky, a mineralogist at NASA's Johnson Space Center, thinks it has found several minute samples of water sealed inside the salt crystals in the Monahans meteorite. The minute droplets of salty brine, which would have traveled through the solar system for millions of years as tiny ice crystals, could reveal the details of early solar-system chemistry. They may also tell scientists how and where water formed, whether it was in the early days of the solar system, or farther away and back in time somewhere in interstellar space.

Full story here.


MARCH 27, 1998


With the recent hubbub about the dangers of large asteroid impacts, events this past week serve as a reminder about smaller pieces of cosmic debris. On Sunday, March 22nd, just before 7 p.m. local time, a fireball was seen blazing and then exploding over Texas. Shortly thereafter, a hunk of rock hit the ground in the city of Monahans, located 340 km (210 miles) east of El Paso. The fragment, first found by youths who were playing basketball about 10 meters away, measured 22-by-10-by-5 centimeters (9-by-4-by-2 inches). A second, smaller fragment was found the next day about 240 meters (800 feet) away from the first. The meteorites have been classified as chondrites, or stony meteorites. More pieces are likely in the area.

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