A Review of the “Black Beauty” Martian Regolith Breccia and Its Martian Habitability RecordOPEN ACCESS 

Arthur Goodwin, Russell J. Garwood and Romain Tartèse

Mini Review, Published Online: 25 Feb 2022


“The regolith breccia Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034 and paired samples are unique meteorite representatives of the martian crust. They are water rich, lithologically varied, and preserve the oldest martian zircon grains yet discovered that formed ca. 4500–4300 Ma. The meteorite thus provides us with an invaluable record of the crustal and environmental conditions on early Mars. Resetting of some radioisotopic chronometers occurred in response to a major thermal disturbance event ca. 1500–1400 Ma, likely caused by an impactor that brecciated and redeposited NWA 7034 near the surface in an ejecta blanket. Lithologies comprising NWA 7034 were then aqueously altered by a long-lasting impact-induced hydrothermal system, before being excavated and ejected by a subsequent impact at ca. 5–15 Ma. This review compiles chronological and petrological information into an overarching geochronological summary for NWA 7034 and paired samples. We then provide a synopsis for the volatile (H2O, C) inventory and hydrothermal alteration history of NWA 7034. From this geochronological history and volatile inventory, we interpret and assess two potential periods of martian habitability: (1) an early window of pre-Noachian planetary habitability, and (2) impact-derived hydrothermal systems that allowed intermittent habitable crater environments well into the Amazonian. “