Home Sci-Tech South Africa: Reading the Rocks – Investigating Martian Meteorites

South Africa: Reading the Rocks – Investigating Martian Meteorites

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South Africa: Reading the Rocks - Investigating Martian Meteorites

Scientists like Geoffrey Howarth, a geologist based at the University of Cape Town, are studying Martian meteorites to better understand the structure and geological history of the Red Planet. Here’s what we know so far.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Geoffrey Howarth, who grew up on a farm in the Eastern Cape, first came across the field of igneous petrology (the study of how volcanic rocks form) as an undergraduate. Little did he know then that he would one day specialise in two very different types of igneous rocks: one that formed in the heart of our planet and others that came from the surface of a planet 137-million kilometres away.

“As a child I liked to collect rocks because I found them mysterious, but it was only later when I first began studying geology that I became fascinated with what rocks can tell us about the history of a planet through time. I still remember the first time I came across a Martian meteorite. Holding a little piece of a different planet in my hand definitely made an impression.”

Today, Howarth’s research focuses on kimberlite, the type of rock in which most diamonds are found,…

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