July 14, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Discovery

Mars Rover discovers a strange rock on the Red Planet

A peculiar white rock seems strangely out of place on the Red Planet.

NASA's Perseverance rover, which has been on Mars since February 2021, recently found a light-colored rock on the surface of Mount Washburn, a hill inside Jezero Crater. The rock, which measures 45 by 35 centimeters (18 by 14 inches), is now called “Atoko Point” because it resembles, in color, a cliff with a similar name within Arizona's Grand Canyon.

But while the earth element is made of limestone, a sedimentary rock, Atoko Point on the Red Planet It is composed of pyroxene and feldspar, components of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Researchers have offered two insights into this unique discovery. Either the rock formed elsewhere and was transported to Jezero Crater long ago by a Martian river, or it formed underground and eventually reached the surface.

The scientific team in charge of Perseverance's exploits hoped to study the wide variety of rocks on Mount Washburn. Co-director Brad Garczynski of Western Washington University says they represent a “geological goody bag,” but Atoko Point was the one that stood out.

When I first saw the image of Atoko Point, I thought it resembled the light-colored interiors of several meteorites in my collection. For example, the interior of Camel Donga, which fell on the Nullarbor Plain in Western Australia, looks eerily similar. And, in fact, its main minerals are pyroxene and plagioclase, a type of feldspar, the same constituents that make up Atoko Point. Camel Donga is classified as a eucrite, a type of meteorite that is a piece of the asteroid 4 Vesta.

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