Curiosity finds large iron meteorite on Mars

Curiosity has found and photographed its first chunk of iron meteorite on the surface of Mars.

lebanon.jpg
NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/LPGNantes/CNRS/IAS/MSSS

Busily working away on the surface of Mars, Curiosity has found its very first meteorite: a chunk of iron two metres (seven feet) across that NASA scientists have named "Lebanon". It also found nearby two other chunks: Lebanon B, a smaller piece that lays near Lebanon, and a second two-metre chunk a little farther away.

Snapped by Curiosity's Chemistry and Camera instrument on 25 May 2014, the composite image shows a chuck of solid iron, its surface pitted with angular crevices. According to NASA, there are several possible explanations for this texture.

The first is preferential erosion along crystalline boundaries within the metal. Another is that the cavity once held olivine crystals, found in a rare (and rather beautiful) type of iron meteorite called pallasites, now hypothesised to have been formed via impact between core and mantle asteroid materials.

Iron meteorites are rarer on Earth than stone meteorites, but seem to predominate on the surface of Mars: both Spirit and Opportunity both found iron meteorites on the red planet. NASA researchers believe that this could be due to the iron's higher resistance to the erosion processes on Mars; where stone breaks down, iron remains.

About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

 

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