Mars rover finds meteorite

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

The dark, smooth-surfaced object at the centre of this image taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite.

The grid of shiny points visible on the object resulted from that laser zapping by Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument.

The meteorite is about the size of a golf ball. It is informally named “Egg Rock,” for a site in Maine. Locations around Bar Harbor, Maine, are the naming theme for an area on Mars’ Mount Sharp that Curiosity reached in October.

Iron-nickel meteorites are a common class of space rocks found on Earth, and previous examples have been found on Mars, but Egg Rock is the first on Mars to be examined with a laser-firing spectrometer.

The image taken by the rover’s Mast Camera is presented with a colour adjustment that approximates white balancing, to resemble how the rocks and sand would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth.