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Rock hunter finds second Mars meteorite known in U.S.

meteorite close-up
Close-up of Los Angeles Meteorite from Mars  

February 4, 2000
Web posted at: 4:41 PM EST (2141 GMT)

PASADENA, California (CNN) -- When Bob Verish picked up two dark stones on a hike in California's Mojave Desert 20 years ago, the rock hunter didn't realize the rarity of his find. He does now. They represent only the second confirmed Mars meteorite discovery in the United States, NASA scientists announced this week.

Red Planet rocks are extremely uncommon on Earth. More than 20,000 meteorites have been identified, but at most 15 of them came from Mars, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The new Mars discovery, officially named the Los Angeles meteorite, consists of two stones weighing 453 and 245 grams (16 and 9 ounces). An analysis by the University of California, Los Angeles, confirmed that the dark volcanic basaltic rocks were from Mars.

  MESSAGE BOARD
Destination Mars
 

After finding the stones, which are basaltic, or volcanic with dark exteriors, Verish placed them in his rock collection. About two decades passed before he looked closely at them again.

He stored the rocks in boxes in his backyard. In October, while cleaning out his collection for rodent nests and droppings, he came across the unusual rocks again.

Verish, who in the meantime had begun to hunt meteorites, immediately noted the dark fusion crust on the rocks and suspected they were meteorites. He cut off small samples of each and took them to UCLA for analysis.

Mars meteorite
Meteorite from Mars collected dust on Earth  

University technicians confirmed the rocks were meteorites in late December. And noting that the samples bore a remarkable similarity to a Mars meteorite found in the Antarctic in 1994, they ordered more tests.

By January 12, UCLA confirmed the Red Planet origin of the rocks, which Verish has affectionately nicknamed "Miguel" and "Gabriel."

The Los Angeles meteorite is only the second Mars meteorite found in the United States. The other U.S. find was the Lafayette stone from Indiana, identified as a Mars meteorite in 1931.

Like the Los Angeles meteorite, the Lafayette meteorite remained incognito in a collection for years before it was recognized as a Mars meteorite. In Lafayette's case, it was discovered in the geological collection at Purdue University.



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RELATED SITE:
NASA
Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Global Surveyor - Dune Activity Releases
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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