Scientists found the crater from which the oldest known Martian meteorite was originally blasted towards Earth, a discovery that could provide clues into how our own planet was formed.

The meteorite NWA 7034, nicknamed Black Beauty, has fascinated geologists since it was discovered in the Sahara Desert in 2011.

It fits easily in the hand, weighing just over 300 grams (10.6 ounces), and contains a mix of materials including zircons, which date back nearly 4.5 billion years.

Its journey dates back to the solar system's infancy, "about 80 million years after the planets began forming", said Bouley, who co-authored a new study on the meteorite.

But the researchers had a clue: by measuring Black Beauty's exposure to cosmic rays, they knew it was dislodged from its first home around five million years ago.

Another clue was that its composition showed it had suddenly heated up around 1.5 million years ago—likely by the impact of a second asteroid.

The team then created an algorithm and used a supercomputer to trawl through images of 90 million craters taken by a NASA satellite.

They found that Black Beauty was dug up from its first home by an asteroid that struck around 1.5 billion years ago, forming the 40-kilometer Khujirt crater.

Then a few million years ago, another asteroid hit not far away, creating the 10-kilometer Karratha crater and shooting the Black Beauty towards Earth.

The region in Mars' southern hemisphere is rich in the elements potassium and thorium, just like Black Beauty.