A team of Swiss researchers has found a rare meteorite from the planet Mars in the deserts of Oman. The lump of rock - weighing 223 grams and measuring seven centimetres - is expected to yield important information about the origins and development of the Red Planet.
The geologists from the University of Bern and the city's Natural History Museum both characterised the find as very important. Of the 20,000 meteorites discovered on Earth, only 18 have come from Mars.
Until the expected return of the Mars probe in 2012, scientists will have to rely on the information provided by meteorites like this one as they seek to discover whether there is, or has been, life on Mars.
"This meteorite has an important scientific value because it is probably the only material of its kind which the scientific community will have full access to in the next 10 years," the university's Institute of Mineralogy and Petrology said on Friday.
The latest find, baptised Say al Uhaymir 094, is one of 180 meteorites collected during a sweep of the Oman desert between January and February. It is valued at around SFr335,000 ($189,000).
Pieces of rock, which break free from the surface of Mars can take up to 20 million years to reach Earth.
swissinfo with agencies
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