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Direct From The Red Planet - Martian Meteorites

One of the Martian meteorites that fell in Morocco last year.
Darryl Pitt
One of the Martian meteorites that fell in Morocco last year.

It's a long way for a rock to travel, but scientists confirm that several meteorites that plunged into southern Morocco last summer are actually from Mars. Meteorites do fall on the Earth, but debris from Mars has only made it to Earth on four previous occasions, according to AP. The Martian meteorite fall is the first since 1962.

A group of scientists from the International Society for Meteoritics and Planetary Science verified the rocks' origin and their startling arrival:

"At about 2 am local time on July 18, 2011, a bright fireball was observed by several people in the region of the Oued Drâa valley, east of Tata, Morocco. One eyewitness, Mr Aznid Lhou, reported that it was at first yellow in color, and then turned green illuminating all the area before it appeared to split into two parts. Two sonic booms were heard over the valley."

The researchers say nomads didn't find the first stones until October, near a Morocan settlement, and the group of meteorites is now named Tissint, after the village. Several of the rocks, which range in weight from a fraction of an ounce to more than two pounds, are held by meteorite dealers.

One purchaser is the Arizona Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University. Laurence Garvie, the center's collection manager, told ASU: "Martian falls are extremely rare. Less than 0.5% of falls are martians...(this) is one of the most significant additions to our collection in several decades."

Researchers theorize the Martian debris occurred millions of years ago when something collided with the Red Planet and rock fragments hurtled into space, according to the Telegraph.

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Korva Coleman is a newscaster for NPR.