Jul 20, 2014 10:54 AM EDT
NASA Curiosity Rover Finds 2-Meter Long Iron Meteorite on Mars (PHOTO)
NASA's Curiosity Mars exploration rover has beamed back images of the first meteorite it has ever spotted on the surface of the Red Planet.
According to the Guardian, the meteorite is about two meters long and is made of iron. Dubbed "Lebanon" for its shape, the meteorite is about as long as Curiosity is wide.
The meteorite's presence on Mars may not be significant in itself, but the fragments of rock and metal from space are interesting nonetheless. Oftentimes meteorites are the remaining bits and pieces of dead planets and other spatial bodies that crash down.
"The imaging shows angular shaped cavities on the surface of the rock. One possible explanation is that they resulted from preferential erosion along crystalline boundaries within the metal of the rock," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said in a statement. "Another possibility is that these cavities once contained olivine crystals, which can be found in a rare type of stony-iron meteorites called pallasites, thought to have been formed near the core-mantle boundary within an asteroid."
Though Curiosity laid its camera eyes on a meteorite for the first time, NASA's other two rovers - Spirit and Opportunity - each discovered smaller ones previously. The Guardian's Stuart Clark reported that meteorites are common on Mars because they fade away thousands of times slower than they would on Earth due to the Red Planet's lack of atmosphere.
On Aug. 6 of this year, Curiosity will complete two Earth years on Mars, though its first Martian year (687 days) finished on June 24, 2013. NASA extended Curiosity's mission indefinitely and its findings will be the basis for a manned mission to Mars, which NASA is tentatively planning for 2020.
Curiosity is plodding its way to Mount Sharp, its ultimate scientific destination, to dig up as much evidence as possible. NASA mission managers believe Mount Sharp will give a clear story of Mars' environmental history.
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