Curiosity finds rock with chemistry seen on Earth
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Reuters
The rock is a new kind of type encountered on Mars. REUTERS photoWhen scientists selected a rock to test the Mars rover Curiosity’s laser, they expected it to contain the same minerals as rocks found elsewhere on the Red Planet, but learned instead it was more similar to a rock found on Earth.
The rock was chemically more akin to an unusual type of rock found on oceanic islands like Hawaii and St. Helena, as well as in continental rift zones like the Rio Grande, which extends from Colorado to Chihuahua, Mexico.
“It was a bit of a surprise, what we found with this rock,” Curiosity scientist Ralf Gellert said on Oct. 11.
“It’s igneous,” Gellert said, referring to rock formed from molten material. “But it seems to be a new kind of rock type that we encountered on Mars.”
Curiosity arrived on Mars two months ago to learn if the most Earth-like planet in the solar system was suitable for microbial life.
Last month, Curiosity’s laser was used to zap the football-sized rock and the rover analyzed the pulverized material, as well as tiny pits left behind, to determine its chemical composition.
Scientists found the rock lacks magnesium and iron, elements found in igneous rock examined by previous Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
The rock, named after a Jet Propulsion Laboratory rover engineer, Jake Matijevic, who died shortly after Curiosity’s landing, was also rich in feldspar-like minerals, which provided clues about the rock’s history.
“The way in which this type of rock forms ... is like how applejack liquor was made,” geologist Edward Stolper, said.