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By measuring the atoms produced by these breakdowns inside rocks, physicists were able to estimate their ages (right).And by comparing the ratios of those atoms to atoms from meteorites, they could estimate how long ago it was that the Earth formed along with the rest of the solar system."This process was still occurring when conditions were unfavorable for carbonation.

Nineteenth century geologists recognized that rocks formed slowly as mountains eroded and sediments settled on the ocean floor.

The Lafayette is one of several Martian meteorites called the Nakhlites, thought to have been ejected out of a vast volcanic plateau by a comet impact.

The meteorites are 1.3-billion-year-old basalt, a volcanic rock rich in the mineral olivine.

Long before their space journey, water altered the rock, leaving behind microscopic fractures filled with clays and carbonates. Tomkinson's team discovered that Lafayette's siderite, an iron-rich carbonate mineral, formed through carbonation.

Radiometric dating indicates these minerals formed some 625 million years ago. (This is the same process proposed for carbon sequestration on Earth.) When water and carbon dioxide gas combine with olivine minerals in the basalt, the ensuing chemical reaction creates carbonate and silicate minerals, trapping the gas.

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