Odd object imaged by Curiosity’s Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1577, January 12, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has imaged an unusual object, possibly a meteorite. At first glance the find appears to be similar to an Iron-Nickel meteorite found by the robot back in October 2016.

Curiosity’s Mastcam Right image of the object was taken on Sol 1577, January 12, 2017.

The color, luster, and general morphology appears consistent with what has been seen on Mars for iron meteorites, says James Ashley a planetary geologist and science systems engineer in the Mars Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

“But I’m always struck by the differences — some subtle, some not so subtle – between the individual samples,” Ashley adds.

Ashley explains that his views are speculative. Also, he is not on the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity team.

October 30, 2016 image taken by Curiosity on Sol 1505. This iron-nickel meteorite was dubbed “Egg Rock.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Egg Rock

Back on October 30, 2016 Curiosity on Sol 1505 found the iron-nickel meteorite dubbed “Egg Rock” on the Murray Formation. That find, Ashley points out, brought the inventory of confirmed and candidate meteorites identified on the Martian surface to 22 finds.

Curiosity examined the golf-ball-size object with laser pulses and confirmed it to be an iron-nickel meteorite.

“Compare this rock to the previous meteorite identified by the Curiosity science team, Egg Rock, for example. That one has deep incisions that one can interpret as resulting from the differential erosion of its surface. That is a weathering feature that occurred post-fall, and is therefore giving you information on Martian surface processes,” Ashley told Inside Outer Space.

“Such things are of great interest to Mars science, particularly because they provide insight into recent surface processes,” Ashley notes. “The current rock, although probably weathered, might have arrived at its appearance from ablation processes during passage through the atmosphere. And that tells you very little about Mars surface processes, introducing ambiguity to the weathering discussion.”

This dark, golf-ball-size object was inspected by the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Photo shows a grid of shiny dots where ChemCam had fired laser pulses used for determining the chemical elements in the target’s composition.
The analysis confirmed that this object, informally named “Egg Rock,” is an iron-nickel meteorite. 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.


Ashley concludes that if the newest object under review is a meteorite, “it is probably another iron, which have been offering some very interesting thoughts on survivability in the current Martian environment over time.”


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