That fiery streak last year in the desert night sky over Morocco? Turns out it was a visitor from Mars, the Associated Press reported. A 2011 meteor shower brought a shipment of Martian rocks for the first time in 49 years, scientists have confirmed.
The shower was sighted in July of last year but the cosmic debris was only recovered last month. While Russian and American rovers have roamed the red planet's rocky surface for years, they have never brought back samples. Showers like these are scientists' only chance to perform chemical analyses — for now.
"It's Christmas in January," said former NASA sciences chief Alan Stern, director of the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida. "It's nice to have Mars sending samples to Earth, particularly when our pockets are too empty to go get them ourselves."
The 15 pounds of rocks are a relatively large addition to the 240 pounds of Martian matter that is known to have made it through Earth's atmosphere. Scientists have only chemically confirmed that a meteor shower contained Mars debris four other times. The last time such a meteor was found "fresh" was 1962, according to the AP.
Several specimens are on sale at The Macovich Collection, which specializes in the sale of space debris.