Rover finds meteorite on Mars
In a stroke of luck, the NASA rover Opportunity has discovered a basketball-size metal meteorite sitting on the surface of Mars, the mission’s main scientist said. Scientists believe the meteorite might lead to clues about how Martian winds are reshaping the planet’s surface. Opportunity came upon the meteorite last week.
Tests confirmed it was a nickel-iron meteorite, said Steve Squyres, a Cornell University scientist who is the principal investigator for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers mission. “I didn’t see this one coming,” Squyres said on Tuesday. “I try very hard to anticipate the things that we might find and the things we might need to know, and be prepared for things, but an iron meteorite was not something that I was expecting.”
Scientists are not so much interested in the meteorite itself. Rather, they want to see if other objects spotted out on the Meridiani plains are also meteorites and what that might tell them about Mars.
If sand is continually blowing in and being deposited on the surface, burying things and building up terrain over time, meteorites will be covered and few will be seen, Squyres said. But if fine surface material is being continuously stripped away by the wind, coarse things like meteorites will be left behind and their accumulation will show.