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John Shuttleworth's Lounge Music - Episode 1
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29/06/2011

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 29 June 2011

On 28th June 1911 an explosion erupted in the sky over the Nakhla region of Alexandria in Egypt.

A chunk of rock, about the size of a football, had broken away from the surface of Mars several million years ago. It floated around the Solar System until eventually the Martian rock was pulled into our planet's gravitational field.

When it fell to Earth a century ago, eyewitnesses saw an explosion high in the atmosphere, as the meteor split into dozens of fragments which hurtled towards them and were buried up to a meter deep in the ground.

Dr Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, looks at the legacy of the Nakhla meteorite. These precious rocks are now being used by scientists to ground-truth data sent back from Spirit and Opportunity - the two rovers currently exploring the Martian surface.

Over 100 yrs after it landed, the Nakhla meteorite could hold the key to the ancient history of Mars, answering questions about the presence of water and the possibility of microbial life on the Red Planet.

Producer: Michelle Martin.

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