Scientists from Denmark, who have been studying a sample of the Black Beauty meteorite - the highly sought-after ancient rock which was discovered in the Sahara Desert in 2011 - have uncovered what they claim is fresh evidence about the likely formation of Mars.
Black Beauty, scientifically labelled Northwest Africa 7034, is special as it comprises small pieces of the crust from Mars, which has been found to contain the rare mineral zircon - in which researchers have found a high concentration of hafnium.
This is a robust mineral that has been used to establish a temporal framework to understand the formation history of the Martian crust.
However, the most recent studies of the Black Beauty sample conducted by scientists from the University of Copenhagen found seven zircons, one of which is the oldest known zircon from Mars.
These samples indicated to the researchers that the early surface of Mars consisted of a liquid magma ocean which crystallised relatively rapidly - just 20 million years after the formation of the solar system. Thereafter, a solid crust emerged on the red planet potentially housing oceans with water and life.
"This means Mars had a solid crust that could potentially house oceans and perhaps also life," claimed the research team.
"Zircon also acts as a small time capsule as it preserves information about the environment where and when it was created.
"In this case, a time capsule with hafnium that originates from the earliest crust of Mars, which was present approximately 100 million years before the oldest zircon of Black Beauty was created."
The University, therefore, concluded that Mars got an early start compared to Earth, whose solid crust wasn't formed until much later.
The original Black Beauty meteorite was found in the Sahara Desert in 2011, weighing 319.8 grams. After it became apparent that it was something rather special, sale prices of genuine samples skyrocketed. It currently has a sale price of approximately $10,000 (£7,600) per gram.
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