Science in action
Mars Rover Inspects Intriguing Rock – A Meteorite? [Space.com]
Scientists controlling the Opportunity Mars rover are taking an up-close look at an intriguing pitted rock on Mars, now dubbed “Heat Shield Rock”.
A speculative view about the object is that the Mars robot has come across a meteorite. A detailed investigation of the rock is underway, work that should reveal the true nature of the object.
Initial looks at the rock have stirred speculation the object could be a meteorite. Furthermore, Opportunity’s Mini-Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES) is suggestive that the find is made of metal.
In wait-and-see mode is Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for the science instruments onboard Opportunity, as well as the Spirit rover busy at work on the other side of Mars.
Squyres said data taken by Opportunity’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer — a device that accurately determines the elements that make up rocks and soils — is to arrive over the weekend. So too is information about the rock from use of the rover’s Mössbauer Spectrometer. This equipment can determine the composition and abundance of iron-bearing minerals.
Too early to tell if it’s a meteorite, said Laurie Leshin, Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.
“Not sure if it is or not, but it does sorta look like one,” Leshin told SPACE.com. “Looks a lot like an iron [meteorite] to me.”
Leshin said, however, that her Meteorite Center identifies loads of “meteorwrongs” per year. “Looks can be deceiving.”
Given the robot’s suite of science instruments, identifying the makeup and origin of the rock should be forthcoming.