Could their be a more exciting way to kick off my new collaboration with the Astro Babes than to bring you photos of an actual piece of Mars?!
On Sept. 24, I accompanied the Astro Babes to a lecture in Madison that was part of the “Biosignatures: What Does Life Leave Behind?” exhibit that hopes to excite public curiosity about astrobiology research at UW-Madison. A presentation entitled “How to build an Astrobiology Exhibit in 1,272 Easy Steps” was followed by a reception in the museum that not only featured a piece of Mars, but a rare opportunity to hold a piece of it in your hands.
The main attraction for this event was a viewed fall of the Tissint meteorite that is thought to have broken off the Red Planet around 700,000 years ago and witnessed landing in Morocco in 2011.
The collector that sold this piece to the museum also lent a piece to the museum that lecture attendees could hold in their hand. Unlike most meteorites found on Earth, this piece was very light and had no real fusion crust. It was identified Martian by testing the “atmosphere” that was trapped inside air pockets in the rock.
NASA funds the Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium and other teams to develop new tools and methods for detecting evidence of past life on Earth. This research will then help scientists recognize signs of life in other places such as Mars or Titan because we won’t find any dinosaur bones there.
Martian rocks are a rarity here on Earth today, but I plan to personally bring back many more rocks for research on my first round-trip mission to Mars.