6 October 2009

Opportunity Knocks and A Meteorite Answers!

Posted by Dan Satterfield


View of Opportunity on the surface of Mars! Taken by the Mars recon. Orbiter. NASA JPL

The Mars Rover Opportunity was designed to last 6 months. It’s still driving around Mars 5 years later! Both Spirit and the Opportunity Rover are still functioning, although Spirit is stuck right now in martian quicksand!


Meteorite on Mars. See thumbprints?? Courtesy NASA JPL

In the last few weeks, Opportunity has spotted a couple of meteorites on Mars. Take a look at the pictures!

This looks like an iron meteorite and seems to have the thumb prints that are common with this type. These indentations are caused by the hot ride through the atmosphere and are officially called REGMAGLYPTS. (Yeah it’s pronounced like it looks, and when you figure out how to say it, let me know too!)

Almost all meteorites are magnetic, but not all have as much iron and nickel as others. The regmaglypts tend to only show up in space stones that are almost all metal.

Meteorites are very old, and are of great interest to scientists. They are likely the left over remains of failed planets that did not congeal when our solar system formed. Most are around 4,500 million years old and are one of the clues to Earths age. (About the same)

The latest meteorite found by Opportunity. Click for hires image.

The latest meteorite found by Opportunity. Click for hires image.

In related news, Steve Squyres the principal investigator for the Mars Rover project as just been awarded the Carl Sagan Medal, for excellence in Planetary Science communication.

Well deserved!!

Check out the apture links on this post for a quick course on meteorites.

These rovers have rewritten the text books on planetary science. If only Sagan had lived to see it!

My favourite picture sent back by them was of cirrus clouds in the martian sky. That, and martian dust devils!