[meteorite-list] Curiosity Mars Rover Checks Odd-looking Iron Meteorite

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 4 Nov 2016 16:05:43 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201611042305.uA4N5hlL002276_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Curiosity Mars Rover Checks Odd-looking Iron Meteorite
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
November 2, 2016

The dark, golf-ball-size object in this composite, colorized view from
the ChemCam instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is a nickel-iron
meteorite, as confirmed by analysis using laser pulses from ChemCam on
Oct. 30, 2016. The grid of bright spots on the rock resulted from the
laser pulses.

Laser-zapping of a globular, golf-ball-size object on Mars by NASA's Curiosity
rover confirms that it is an iron-nickel meteorite fallen from the Red
Planet's sky.

Iron-nickel meteorites are a common class of space rocks found on Earth,
and previous examples have been seen on Mars, but this one, called "Egg
Rock," is the first on Mars examined with a laser-firing spectrometer.
To do so, the rover team used Curiosity's Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam)

Scientists of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) project, which operates
the rover, first noticed the odd-looking rock in images taken by Curiosity's
Mast Camera (Mastcam) at a site the rover reached by an Oct. 27 drive.

"The dark, smooth and lustrous aspect of this target, and its sort of
spherical shape attracted the attention of some MSL scientists when we
received the Mastcam images at the new location," said ChemCam team member
Pierre-Yves Meslin, at the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology
(IRAP), of France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and
the University of Toulouse, France.

ChemCam found iron, nickel and phosphorus, plus lesser ingredients, in
concentrations still being determined through analysis of the spectrum
of light produced from dozens of laser pulses at nine spots on the object.
The enrichment in both nickel and phosphorus at some of the same points
suggests the presence of an iron-nickel-phosphide mineral that is rare
except in iron-nickel meteorites, Meslin said.

Iron meteorites typically originate as core material of asteroids that
melt, allowing the molten metal fraction of the asteroid's composition
to sink to the center and form a core.

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

In addition, the study of iron meteorites found on Mars -- including examples
found previously by Mars rovers -- can provide information about how long
exposure to the Martian environment has affected them, in comparison with
how Earth's environment affects iron meteorites. Egg Rock may have fallen
to the surface of Mars many millions of years ago. Researchers will be
analyzing the ChemCam data from the first few laser shots at each target
point and data from subsequent shots at the same point, to compare surface
versus interior chemistry.

Egg Rock was found along the rover's path up a layer of lower Mount Sharp
called the Murray formation, where sedimentary rocks hold records of ancient
lakebed environments on Mars. The main science goal for Curiosity's second
extended mission, which began last month, is to investigate how ancient
environmental conditions changed over time. The mission has already determined
that this region once offered conditons favorable for microbial life,
if any life ever existed on Mars.

Curiosity was launched five years ago this month, on Nov. 26, 2011, from
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It landed inside Gale Crater,
near the foot of Mount Sharp, in August 2012.

The rover remains in good condition for continuing its investigations,
after working more than twice as long as its originally planned prime
mission of about 23 months, though two of its 10 science instruments have
recently shown signs of potentially reduced capability. The neutron-generating
component of Curiosity's Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument,
designed for working through the prime mission, is returning data showing
reduced voltage. Even if DAN could no longer generate neutrons, the instrument
could continue to check for water molecules in the ground by using its
passive mode. The performance of the wind-sensing capability from Curiosity's
Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) is also changing, though
that instrument still returns other Mars-weather data daily, such as temperatures,
humidity and pressure. Analysis is in progress for fuller diagnosis of
unusual data from DAN, which was provided by Russia, and REMS, provided
by Spain.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los
Alamos, New Mexico, developed ChemCam in partnership with scientists and
engineers funded by the French national space agency (CNES). Mastcam was
built by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the
Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate,
Washington, and built the project's Curiosity rover. For more information
about Curiosity, visit:


News Media Contact
Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726 / 202-358-1077
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov / laura.l.cantillo at nasa.gov

Received on Fri 04 Nov 2016 07:05:43 PM PDT

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