Nakhla is a martian achondrite that fell June 28th, 1911, in Al Buhayrah, Egypt. Nakhla is one of only 5 martian meteorites to be witnessed as it fell to Earth.
At the time of the fall, a newspaper article was published claiming the meteorite had hit a dog on entry. This was never proven, but did inspire a Peanuts cartoon strip, in which Linus and Charlie Brown discuss the meteorite striking a dog, to Snoopy’s dismay.
Director Meenakshi Wadhwa and her research group are interested in deciphering the geologic history and evolution of Mars through trace element and isotopic studies of the martian meteorites, and Nakhla has been actively studied by Center researchers. This work has primarily focused on determining redox conditions in the mantle and crust on Mars through studies of rare earth element abundances. Additional studies have targeted the early differentiation history of Mars through investigations of the 146Sm-142Nd and 182Hf-182W short-lived isotope systems in the martian meteorites, and constraining the composition of aqueous crystal fluids on Mars through analysis of the boron isotope composition of the Nakhla meteorite.
Nakhla is the namesake for the nakhlite meteorite type group, made up of 14 distinct meteorites, and defined by the Meteoritical Society as clinopyroxenites or wehrlites formed as cumulate rocks.
Currently, Ph.D. candidate Curtis Williams is analyzing the lithium isotope composition of the martian meteorites, while Ph.D. candidate Prajkta Mane and M.S. student Kera Tucker are utilizing the hydrogen isotope composition of the martian meteorites, determined using secondary ion mass spectrometry, to provide unique insights into the history of water on Mars and alteration of the martian crust.