Rock Found in Oman 'from Mars'

Published June 30th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

A dark, baseball-size rock found in the deserts of Oman is the latest confirmed meteorite from Mars, reported The Associated Press, quoting University Tennessee geologist, Larry Taylor. 

Only about confirmed 14 Martian meteorites have been found, and this one, found by private rock hunters in the Middle East in February was taken to Russia, and then brought to Tennessee for analysis, is only the third located in a desert region, said the AP. 

Most of the other meteorites were discovered at the South Pole, including the rock, known as Allen Hills 84001, that some researchers suggested in 1996 contained fossilized remains of extra-terrestrial life, added the agency. 

"I will be curious to see if the nano-fossils might be the same or if they are different," Taylor said, alluding to future experiments on the 1-kg Omani rock, named Dhofar 19 from the Oman region where it was found. 

Many scientists still doubt the Allen Hills rock contains fossils. Others suggest the remnants are from Earthen not Martian creatures, what scientists call "terrestrial contamination." If the same features are found in both rocks, "that would seem to rule out terrestrial contamination to some extent, because the likelihood of having these little critters at both the South Pole in the extreme cold and in the extremely hot desert ... is rather remote," Taylor said. 

The rock found its way to Misha Nasarov, curator of the Russian meteorite collection at Moscow's Vernadsky Institute, shortly after it was found, said the AP.  

Nasarov, who has worked with Taylor through NASA before, brought it to Tennessee for confirmation. 

In turn, Taylor and his colleagues sent samples to other experts to support their conclusion that this rock is from the Red Planet, according to the agency - Albawaba.com  

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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