NASA's Curiosity rover spots a foot-long meteorite on Mars
On January 27, or the 3,724th Martian day of the mission, NASA's Curiosity rover found a unique-looking rover. Made of iron nickel and nicknamed Cacao, the meteorite was a foot across (30 centimeters) and discovered in the "sulfate-bearing unit". The next day, Curiosity repositioned itself and took better images of the meteorite.
What's the fuss about? Indeed, Curiosity has spotted several meteorites before, but as the team mentioned in a tweet - "a change in scenery's always nice."
The panorama is stitched from 19 individual images
And Cacao is distinct from its surroundings. Unlike the red oxide-covered surroundings, the meteorite is dark grey and metallic-looking. Curiosity's Mast Camera, or Mastcam, took the panorama with its 100-millimeter focal length lens. The panorama is made up of 19 images stitched together after being sent to Earth, said a release. The color has been adjusted to match lighting conditions as the human eye would perceive them on Earth.
Cacao contains evidence of having passed through an atmosphere composed of regmaglypts, grooves, and pits on iron meteorites. The regmaglypts are likely created by vortices of hot gas that melted the rock as it passed through the atmosphere, Universe Today stated.
How old is Cacao?
However, the team stressed that there was no way to date the meteorites, and they could have been there for millions of years.
Universe Today also traced Cacao's likely history. Several iron-nickel meteorites hail from the cores of " shattered planetesimals" that formed in the early Solar System. Like Earth, they, too formed a core of dense iron and nickel. But, they were shattered into asteroids as life as a planetesimal was risky.
This is exactly what makes metal meteorites scientifically interesting.
The sad part is only Curiosity, and other robot explorers will ever set eyes on Cacao. Curiosity's primary job is to study the Gale Crater, Mt. Sharp, and features like the sulfur-bearing unit - Cacao was a pleasant discovery.