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Press Release Images: Opportunity
10-Aug-2009
Meteorite Found on Mars Yields Clues About Planet's Past
Full Press Release
'Block Island' Meteorite on Mars, Sol 1961 (False Color)
'Block Island' Meteorite on Mars, Sol 1961 (False Color)

This view of a rock called "Block Island," the largest meteorite yet found on Mars, comes from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

Analysis of Block Island's composition using the rover's alpha particle X-ray spectrometer confirmed that it is rich in iron and nickel. The rock is about 60 centimeters (2 feet) across.

This is a false-color, red-green-blue composite view generated from images taken through the Pancam's 750-nanometer, 530-nanometer and 430-nanometer filters. The exaggeraged color is used for enhancing the visibility of differences among the types of rock and soil materials.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University
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Magnified Look at a Meteorite on Mars
Magnified Look at a Meteorite on Mars

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its microscopic imager to get this view of the surface of a rock called "Block Island" during the 1,963rd Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars (Aug. 1, 2009). The triangular pattern of small ridges seen at the upper right in this image and elsewhere on the rock is characteristic of iron-nickel meteorites found on Earth, especially after they have been cut, polished and etched. Block Island has been identified as an iron-nickel meteorite based on this surface texture and analysis of its composition by Opportunity's alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. At about 60 centimeters (2 feet) across, it is the largest meteorite yet found on Mars.

This image shows a patch 32 millimeters by 32 millimeters (1.3 inches by 1.3 inches) on the surface of Block Island while the target was fully illuminated by the sun. This target on the rock is informally named "New Shoreham." The vertical white streaks, especially near the top and bottom of the image, are artifacts caused by saturation of the camera's CCD (charge-coupled device, or image recorder) where sunlight glinted off metallic facets.

The triangular pattern in the texture of iron-nickel meteorites, called the Widmanstatten pattern, formed more than 4.5 billion years ago as the metal cooled. One iron-nickel mineral, kamacite, formed thin layers along the surface of crystals of another, taenite, which contains less nickel. The two minerals differ in their resistance to either etching by acid or erosion by wind-blown sand, so those processes can make the pattern visible.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University/USGS
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Iron-Nickel Meteorite from Texas with Triangle-Pattern Texture
Iron-Nickel Meteorite from Texas with Triangle-Pattern Texture

This iron-nickel meteorite found near Fort Stockton, Texas, in 1952 shows a surface texture similar to some portions of the surface of an iron-nickel meteorite that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity found on Mars in July 2009. The Fort Stockton meteorite is about 15 centimeters (6 inches) across and is in the collection of Texas Christian University.

The triangular pattern visible on the surface of this meteorite is commonly seen inside iron-nickel meteorites that have been cut, polished and etched. On the Fort Stockton meteorite and apparently on the "Block Island" meteorite on Mars, long exposure to wind-blown sand has brought out the texture.

This triangular pattern in the texture of iron-nickel meteorites, called the Widmanstatten pattern, formed more than 4.5 billion years ago as the metal cooled. One iron-nickel mineral, kamacite, formed thin layers along the surface of crystals of another, taenite, which contains less nickel. The two minerals differ in their resistance to etching by acid or erosion by wind-blown sand, so those processes can make the pattern visible.

Image Credit: Smithsonian Institution
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