Tissint meteorite

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Tissint meteorite
Tissint meteorite.jpg
Piece of the meteorite with glossy black fusion crust and a light gray matrix
Type Achondrite
Class Martian meteorite
Group Shergottite
Country Morocco
Region Tata Province, Guelmim-Es Semara
Observed fall Yes
Fall date 2011-07-18
TKW 7 kilograms (15 lb)-11 kilograms (24 lb)

The Tissint meteorite is a Martian meteorite that fell in Tata Province in the Guelmim-Es Semara region of Morocco on July 18, 2011. Tissint is only the fifth Martian meteorite that people have witnessed falling to Earth, and the first since 1962.[1] Pieces of the meteorite are on display at several museums, including the Museum of Natural History of Vienna and the Natural History Museum in London.


On July 18, 2011, around 2 AM local time, a bright fireball was observed by several people in the Oued Drâa valley, east of Tata, Morocco. One observer reported that the fireball was initially yellow in color, then turned green, illuminating the entire area before it appeared to break into two pieces; two sonic booms were heard over the valley.

In October 2011, nomads began to find very fresh, fusion-crusted stones in a remote area of the Oued Drâa intermittent watershed, centered about 50 kilometres (31 mi) ESE of Tata and 48 kilometres (30 mi) SSW of Tissint village, near the Oued El Gsaïb drainage and also near El Ga’ïdat plateau known as Hmadat Boû Rba’ine. The largest pieces were recovered in the El Ga’ïdat plateau, and the smallest ones (a few grams) were found closer to the El Aglâb mountains. One 47 g crusted stone was documented as found at 29°28.917’ N, 7°36.674’ W.[2]

Tissint was named after the town of Tissint, located 48 kilometres (30 mi) away from the fall site.[3]

Up until 1990, only five meteorites had been found in Morocco, but since then, more meteorites have landed in the area. Current As of 2012 records show that meteorite hunters have discovered 754 at specific sites in Morocco as well as thousands of others from uncertain locations. After the increases in meteorite falls, a market for meteorites drove the emergence of a meteorite prospecting industry in northwestern Africa and Oman. The rocks have been quickly bought out of the country into collections abroad because the significant discoveries resulted in high prices for the rocks (an auction on October 14, 2012, included fragments of the Tissent meteorite).[4] This made it difficult for researchers such as Hasnaa Chennaoui Aoudjehane, the only one who has studied the meteorite, to have access to samples for her research and leaves Morocco with few remains of the meteorites that fell there.[5]

Physical characteristics[edit]

Several rocks with masses ranging from 1 to 987 grams were collected—totaling to around 7–11 kilograms (15–24 lb). The rocks are nearly completely coated by a shining black fusion crust, characterized by thicker layers on exterior ridges as well as more glossy regions above interior olivine macrocrysts. Some rocks have a thinner secondary fusion crust on some of the surfaces, and some rocks have broken crusts in places, revealing the interior, which appear pale grey in color overall with larger, very pale yellow olivine macrocrysts with sporadic small pockets and some very thin veinlets of black glass. No terrestrial weathering was observed on the rocks.[2]

Petrology and origin[edit]

The meteorite was ejected from the surface of Mars 700,000 years ago, and contains unique evidence of water weathering on the planet's surface. There are signs of elements being carried into cracks in the rocks by water or fluid, which is something never seen before in a Martian meteorite.[6]

An analysis by meteoriticist Hasnaa Chennaoui Aoudjehane of Hassan II University in Casablanca determined that the meteorite is a depleted picritic shergottite similar to EETA79001A. Internal structure of the meteorite includes olivine macrocrysts embedded into a fine-grained matrix made of pyroxene and feldspar glass. The matrix has numerous cracks filled with black glassy material. Like other shergottites Tissint meteorite is enriched in MgO and other compatible elements like Ni and Co. The bulk composition is also depleted in light rare earths and other incompatible elements like Be, Li and U. However the glassy material is enriched in them.[7]

The data on refractory trace elements, sulfur and fluorine as well as the data on the isotopic composition of nitrogen, argon and carbon released upon heating from the matrix and glass veins in the meteorite unambiguously indicate the presence of a Martian surface component including trapped atmosphere gasses. So, the influence of in situ Martian weathering can be distinguished from terrestrial contamination in the meteorite. The Martian weathering features in Tissint are compatible with the results of spacecraft observations of Mars, and Tissint has a cosmic ray exposure age of 0.7 ± 0.3 Ma—consistent with the reading of many other shergottites, notably EETA79001, suggesting that they were ejected from Mars during the same event.[7][8]

The overall composition of Tissint meteorite corresponds to that of Al-poor ferroan basaltic rock, which likely originated as a result of magmatic activity at the surface of Mars. These basalt then underwent weathering by fluids, which deposited minerals enriched in incompatible elements in their fissures and cracks. A later impact on the surface of Mars melted the leeched material forming black glassy veins. Finally shergottites were ejected from Mars about 0.7 million years ago.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wall, Mike (17 January 2012). "Rare Mars Rocks Crashed to Earth in July". Space.com. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Meteoritical Bulletin: Entry for Tissint". The Meteoritical Society. 17 January 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Parry, Wynne (14 October 2012). "Mars Meteorite: Tissint, Space Rock That Hit Moroccan Desert, To Be Auctioned Sunday". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Parry, Wynne (22 September 2012). "Far Out! Meteorites From Mars & Moon Going Up For Sale". LiveScience. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Parry, Wynne (11 October 2012). "Booming Meteorite Market Leaves Few Space Rocks for One Researcher". LiveScience. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  6. ^ Cockerton, Paul (11 October 2012). "Rock of ages: 700,000-year-old Martian meteorite provides evidence of water weathering on Red Planet". The Mirror. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Chennaoui Aoudjehane, H.; Avice, G.; Barrat, J. - A.; Boudouma, O.; Chen, G.; Duke, M. J. M.; Franchi, I. A.; Gattacceca, J.; Grady, M. M.; Greenwood, R. C.; Herd, C. D. K.; Hewins, R.; Jambon, A.; Marty, B.; Rochette, P.; Smith, C. L.; Sautter, V.; Verchovsky, A.; Weber, P.; Zanda, B. (2012). "Tissint Martian Meteorite: A Fresh Look at the Interior, Surface, and Atmosphere of Mars". Science. 338 (6108): 785–788. PMID 23065902. doi:10.1126/science.1224514. 
  8. ^ Bhanoo, Sindya N. (15 October 2012). "A 700,000–Year Trip From Mars to Morocco". NY Times. Retrieved 16 October 2012.