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Martian rock from Sahara desert unlike others

LOS ANGELES -- Scientists are abuzz about a coal-colored rock from Mars that fell in the Sahara desert: A yearlong analysis revealed it's quite different from other Martian meteorites.

It's older than most and contains more water. The baseball-size meteorite, estimated to be 2 billion years old, is strikingly similar to volcanic rocks examined on the Martian surface by the NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which found water-bearing minerals.

Carl Agee of the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico led the study published online yesterday in the journal Science. The meteorite, NWA 7034, nicknamed "Black Beauty," was donated to the university by an American who bought it in Morocco.

Though the amount of water released during heating was small -- 6,000 parts per million -- it was still much more than other Martian meteorites. This suggested there was interaction with water near the surface during a time when the planet was mostly dry and dusty. -- AP

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