COSMIC SECRETS
The Enigmas on Mars 71
Martian Meteorites
Iron Meteorite on Mars
PIA07269
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Credit:  NASA/JPL/ Malin SSS

Opportunity Sol 339

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found an iron meteorite on Mars, the first meteorite of any type ever identified on another planet. The pitted, basketball-size object is mostly made of iron and nickel. Readings from spectrometers on the rover determined that composition. Opportunity used its panoramic camera to take the images used in this approximately true-color composite on the rover's 339th martian day, or sol (Jan. 6, 2005). This composite combines images taken through the panoramic camera's 600-nanometer (red), 530-nanometer (green), and 480-nanometer (blue) filters.

Image Credit:
NASA/JPL/Cornell PIA07269

Heat Shield Rock
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Discarded heat shield from Mars rover Opportunity on the surface of Mars, imaged on Sol 335 of the mission, or January 2, 2005. Engineers were surprised to see that the heat shield had turned itself inside out (inverted).Note Heat Shield Rock is visible in the background just to the upper left of the heat shield, and two metal springs are also visible on the ground. The vertical streaks are image artifacts caused by sunlight glinting off aluminium.Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

Heat Shield Rock

Heat Shield Rock is a basketball-sized iron-nickel meteorite found on Mars by the Mars rover Opportunity in January 2005. The meteorite was formally named Meridiani Planum meteorite by the Meteoritical Society in October, 2005 (meteorites are always named after the place where they were found).

Discovery

Opportunity encountered the meteorite entirely by chance, in the vicinity of its own discarded heat shield (hence the name). Opportunity had been sent to examine the heat shield after exiting the crater Endurance. This was the first meteorite found on another planet and the third found on another Solar System body - two others, Bench Crater and Hadley Rille, were found on the Moon.

The rock was initially identified as unusual in that it showed, from the analysis with the Mini-TES spectrometer, an infrared spectrum that appeared unusually similar to a reflection of the sky. In-situ measurements of its composition were then made using the APXS, showing the composition to be 93% Iron, 7% Nickel, with trace amounts of Germanium (~300 ppm) and Gallium (<100 ppm). Mössbauer spectra show the iron to be primarily in metallic form, confirming its identity as an iron-nickel meteorite, composed of kamacite with 5-7% nickel. This is essentially identical to the composition of a typical IAB iron meteorite found on Earth. The surface of the rock shows the regmaglypts, or pits formed by the ablation of a meteorite during passage through the atmosphere, characteristic of meteorites.

No attempt was made to drill into the meteorite using the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT), because testing on iron meteorites on Earth showed that the rover's drilling tools would be abraded and damaged. The RAT was designed to drill into ordinary rock, not into iron-nickel alloy. Meridiani Planum, the part of Mars where this meteorite was found, is suspected to have once been covered by a layer of material with a thickness of as much as 1 km which has been subsequently eroded. This means that on impact this meteorite might have created a crater, but evidence of that crater may have been subsequently erased by millions, or even billions, of years of erosion. In any case, the meteorite does not show much sign of rust. In the absence of detailed knowledge of the Mars environment, it is difficult to conclude whether it fell recently or was buried until recently. It also shows little sign of weathering.

Following the identification of Heat Shield rock as a meteorite, two additional nickel-iron meteorites were identified by the Spirit rover (unofficially named "Allan Hills" and "Zhong Shan"), and several candidate stony meteorites have been identified on Mars.

Note that the term "Martian meteorite" usually refers to something entirely different: meteorites on Earth which are believed to have originated from Mars, a famous example being ALH84001.

References:

  1. D. S. Rodionov, et al., "An Iron-Nickel Meteorite on Meridiani Planum: Observations by MER Opportunity’s Mössbauer Spectrometer," European Geosciences Union; Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 7, 10242; 1607-7962/gra/EGU05-A-10242 (2005).
  2. Christian Schröder, et al., "Meteorites on Mars observed with the Mars Exploration Rovers," Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets, v. 113(E6), E06S22, doi: 10.1029/2007JE002990 (2008).
  3. A. S. Yen, et al., "Nickel on Mars: Constraints on Meteoritic Material at the Surface," Journal of Geophysical Research- Planets, v. 111, E12S11, doi: 10.1029/2006JE002797 (2006).
  4. G. A. Landis, "Meteoric Steel as a Construction Resource on Mars," , Acta Astronautica, Vol. 64, No. 2-3 (Jan-Feb. 2009). Presented at the Ninth Space Resources Roundtable, Colorado School of Mines, October 2007 presentation, 5.9 mb (powerpoint)
Related Links: SOURCE: Wikipedia Heat Shield Rock
Gallery
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NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found an iron meteorite on Mars (now known as Heat Shield Rock), the first meteorite of any type ever identified on another planet. The pitted, basketball-size object is mostly made of iron and nickel. Readings from spectrometers on the rover determined that composition. Opportunity used its panoramic camera to take the images used in this approximately true-color composite on the rover's 339th martian day, or sol (Jan. 6, 2005). This composite combines images taken through the panoramic camera's 600-nanometer (red), 530-nanometer (green), and 480-nanometer (blue) filters.
Date: 6 January 2005 (2005-01-06) Source  (TIFF converted into 100% quality JPEG)  Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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Heat Shield Rock, imaged by Mars rover Opportunity on Sol 346 of its mission, at 12:24:14 Mars local solar time. "Blueberries" (en:hematite en:concretions) are visible on the ground behind it. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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A closeup of Heat Shield Rock, taken by Mars rover Opportunity with its panoramic camera on Sol 349 of its mission, at 12:58:26 Mars local solar time Credit:PD-USGOV-NASA.
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Heat Shield Rock, imaged by Mars rover Opportunity on Sol 346 of its mission, at 15:45:59 Mars local solar time. "Blueberries" (en:hematite en:concretions) are visible on the ground behind it. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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Mars rover Opportunity prepares to examine en:Heat Shield Rock on Sol 349 of its mission, at approximately 12:57:34 Mars local solar time. Credit: PD-USGOV-NASA.
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Mars rover Opportunity examines en:Heat Shield Rock on Sol 349 of its mission, at approximately 13:27:37 Mars local solar time. Credit: PD-USGOV-NASA.
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Panoramic view of Opportunity's impact site on Mars taken by the rover, with scattered broken metal from its heat shield. Pictured are the conical outer hull of the shattered heat shield (left), expelled by Opportunity as it plummeted toward Mars; and a smaller section of the heat shield and the impact site itself (center).
Date: 25 January 2004(2004-01-25) Credi: NASA
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