NASA’s Curiosity rover may have found its third meteorite on Mars. This image, taken on 12 January as the rover explored a peak called Mount Sharp, appears to show an iron-nickel meteorite, one of only a handful spotted on the Red Planet.
It looks like Curiosity has already taken a closer peek at the weird rock. The three small, bright spots close to the middle of the rock are probably pits from Curiosity’s ChemCam laser, which uses a spectrometer to evaluate the composition of rocks, according to Universe Today.
If the ChemCam results show that it is mostly made of iron, that would confirm that this is a meteorite formed from the core of an asteroid. That would make it one of several discovered by rovers on Mars – five were found by the Opportunity rover, and the Spirit rover took pictures of two potential meteorites.
Strangely, all of them have been made of iron despite the fact that, on Earth, 95 per cent of meteorites are stony. This could be due to differences in how the Martian and terrestrial environments erode rocky and metallic meteorites, or it could just be because it’s tougher to pick out a specific rock amid Mars’ craggy terrain.
It’s hard to tell much about this potential meteorite just by looking at it. This one looks fairly smooth and shiny, which could mean that it fell relatively recently and hasn’t been eroded much. But Mars doesn’t have the oxygen and water that would wear away the meteorite’s smooth surface on Earth, allowing us to guess the time since the meteorite fell. Maybe it’s not new, and has instead been sitting on Mars for a long time, getting polished by the planet’s colossal dust storms.
Quelle: New Scientist