Curiosity finds a Martian meteorite

The Curiosity rover continues to traverse Martian terrain looking for clues that will help scientists piece together the geological and environmental history of the Red Planet. Its latest find is a meteorite that fell from the Martian sky.

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The dark, golf ball-sized meteorite found by Curiosity appears at the centre of this image, captured by the rover’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) on 30 October 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity rover has captured an image of a golf ball-sized object confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite fallen from the Martian sky.

The meteorite has been dubbed ‘Egg Rock’ and was found on lower Mount Sharp, where the rover is currently examining rocks to see how Mars’s environment has changed over time.

Egg Rock could have fallen to the surface of Mars millions of years ago and has been analysed using the rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument. This makes it the first sample of a Martian iron-nickel meteorite to be examined using a laser-firing spectrometer, which fires laser pulses onto the rock and examines the light produced to determine its chemical composition.

Studies of rocks such as this one can tell scientists how exposure to the Martian environment has affected them, and compare this with the effect of Earth’s environment on similar rocks.

"Iron meteorites provide records of many different asteroids that broke up, with fragments of their cores ending up on Earth and on Mars," says ChemCam team member Horton Newsom. "Mars may have sampled a different population of asteroids than Earth has."


 

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