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A Year: Day to Day Men: 28th of June, Solar Year 2018

Ubik in the Marshland

On June 28, 1911 the Nakhla meteorite falls to earth and lands in Egypt.

The Nakhla meteorite is a prototypical example of the Nakhlite type meteorite of the SNC Group of Mars meteorites. These meteorites are considered to have been ejected by the impact of another large body colliding with the Martian surface. They orbited through the solar system before penetrating the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nakhla meteorite landed in the Abu Hommos district near the village of El Nakha El Bahariya, Egypt.

Many people witnessed the descent, approaching from the north-west, with an inclination of about 30 degrees. It was trailed by a column of white smoke. Several explosions were heard before it fell to earth into an area of about three miles in diameter. About forty fragments were discovered, some buried in the ground up to a meter deep. The original weight of the meteorite was estimated at twenty-two pounds (ten kilograms); fragments weighed from 20 grams to eighteen hundred grams.

The Nakhla meteorite is especially significant because it is the first Martian meteorite to show signs of aqueous processes on Mars. The rock contains carbonates and hydrous minerals, formed by chemical reactions in water. In addition, the rock was exposed to water after it formed, which caused secondary accumulations of minerals. The carbonates contain more 13C than rocks formed on Earth, indicating Martian origin.

London’s natural History Museum, which holds several intact fragments of the meteorite, allowed NASA researchers to break one open in 2006, providing fresh samples, relatively free from Earth-sourced contamination. These NASA scientists found an abundance of complex carbonaceous material occupying branching structural pores and channels in the rock, resembling the effects of bacteria observed in rocks on Earth.

Side Note: One fragment of the meteorite was said to have landed on a dog, as observed by a farmer named Mohammed Ali Effendi Hakim in the village of Denshal. It supposedly vaporized the animal instantly. Since no remains of the dog were recovered and there were no other eyewitness to the dog’s demise, this story remains apocryphal. However, the story of the Nakhla dog has become something of a legend among astronomers.

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