Climbing the slopes of Mars’ Mount Sharp last week NASA’s Curiosity rover stumbled across a small metallic meteorite with some puzzling features.
Due to its thin atmosphere composed primarily of carbon dioxide meteorites are very common on the Red Planet, but the tiny object found recently is unusual smooth so that has been dubbed by Nasa scientists as the ‘Egg Rock’. It also has several deep grooves, which suggests that it might have been molten at some point in time.
Using its ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager, a long-distance, laser-guided camera aboard the rover, Curiosity captured several detailed close-ups of the strange object.
Scientists suggest the meteorite is most likely made of nickel-iron, and came from the core of the structure in the asteroid belt. The Asteroid Belt is located in an area of space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, the objects from the belt are often sent smashing into Mars after being kicked out by Jupiter’s gravity.
Curiosity has studied countless rocks and asteroids on the surface of Mars in its first five years there. It is tasked with exploring the surface of Mars by taking detailed photographs and soil samples to test the planet for its potential to host alien microbial life, but it has never seen anything quite like this.
Based on its appearance, it’s likely the metallic meteorite became molten as it entered Mars’ atmosphere, before hardening once it reached the surface – which could explain both the smoothness and some of the strange grooves that suggest the effects of weathering.
Deborah Byrd, a writer for EarthSky said: ‘Mars would be a great place to look for meteorites.’
‘It’s not the first meteorite found by a rover on Mars, and won’t be the last. In several ways, Mars is a meteorite-hunter’s paradise.’
Curiosity is now roving around the base of Mount Sharp, and continuing to look for evidence that the area might have once been habitable.