Northwest Africa 7034 Meteor: New Water-Rich Mars Meteorite Discovered in Africa

A never-before-seen type of Mars rock contains 10 times more water and oxygen than previous samples, according to Science Magazine.

The meteorite, which was found in the Sahara Desert in 2011, is estimated to be about 2.1 billion years old. It’s from what’s called the Martian Amazonian epoch and is the first sample from this era, providing a new look at the history and development of the red planet.

More than 100 Martian meteorites have been found on Earth, according to Wired, but most of them are relatively young. The majority fall into a category known as the SNC group (Shergottites, nakhlites, and chassignites) and are believed to have been dislodged during a major asteroid impact. The SNC samples are believed to have come from the interior of the planet, since they don’t match the composition of the surface as found by the Mars rovers.

The new sample, called Northwest Africa 7034, was heated to high temperatures to test its water content, and was found to contain an unprecedented amount of water and oxygen. It’s of a composition very similar to that found in the Guzev crater by the Spirit rover, according to Wired.

Scientists believe that if they can find liquid water on Mars, the planet might be able to sustain life, so evidence that there once was liquid water present is tracked closely.