It’s easy to remain enthusiastic about the forthcoming expeditions to Mars. Discoveries like the one made by NASA’s Curiosity rover certainly demonstrate the fact there’s still so much about the planet that we do not know.
On 30th October 2018, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity came across a golf-ball-sized object that looked like it didn’t belong on Mars. This smooth, dark, lustrous object was a sort of spherical shape and attracted the attention of some scientists who received the Mastcam images at their location, according to team member Pierre-Yves Meslin.
The dark grey ball — dubbed “Egg Rock” by the Curiosity team — has turned out to be a meteorite.
To determine this, Curiosity used its onboard rock-zapping laser called ChemCam, which can analyze a rock’s chemical composition. The ChemCam operates by firing laser pulses. When ChemCam strikes a rock with its millimeter-sized laser, electrons in elements start emit light at different wavelengths which can be seen as colors. By analyzing the colors, Curiosity can find any object’s chemical composition.
Further tests revealed that Egg Rock was not native to the red planet, and made up of iron, nickel, phosphorous, and a few other trace elements. These sorts of meteorites typically come from an asteroid’s molten core.
“Iron meteorites provide examples of many different asteroids that have broken up, with fragments of their cores ending up on our planet as well a on Mars,” said team member Horton Newsom. Mars may simply have samples of different constituencies of asteroids than there are on Earth.
Now, the Curiosity team is further analysing the area where the Egg Rock was found (near the Murray formation in lower Mount Sharp) in order to learn more about how Mars’ environment has changed over time.
Although NASA have named it ‘Egg Rock’ due to it’s appearance, the inanimate object is actually more likely to be a ball of melted metal than an egg containing extra-terrestrial offspring.
Chemical analysis showed that the rock is composed of metal. It is likely to be a meteorite that became molten as it entered Mars’ atmosphere, upon which point it solidified into it unusual shape.
The exciting discovery could enable further research into the vast plethora of materials that exist in the solar system.