An unusually smooth and reflective Martian rock has called the attention of NASA scientists, causing an investigation of the Curiosity rover. With the spectacular landing of the InSight probe in Mars earlier this week, our attention has clearly diverted Curiosity, which has been exploring the red planet since 2012.
While we have been inflinging InSight, the six-wheel rover of NASA has been working at Vera Rubin Ridge, investigating the Highfield outcrop, a single gray background patch.
The curiosity has been in the Highfield forge before, but the NASA mission controllers wanted to take a look at four rocks previously detected, including an unusually smooth rock that, at least in black and white, seemed like a mica of gold.
The immediate suspicions are that the rock, called Little Colonsay, is a meteorite, but NASA scientists do not know for sure until Curiosity performs a chemical analysis. The ChemCam rover instrument, which consists of a camera, spectrograph and laser, offers a chemistry laboratory in situ.
That curiosity would have hit a meteorite is not surprising. The rover has erased several objects along its trips, including an enormous metal meteorite in 2015 and a brilliant meteorite of nickel-iron the following year.
Other interesting objects discovered by Curiosity include a seemingly out of place fragment, a strange and strange object that turned out to be a plastic container that fell from the vehicle and a sphere of perfection determined to be a product of A natural geological process called concretion.
Perhaps the strangest incident occurred in 2013, when Curiosity saw rocks that seemed astonishing to a squirrel: a classic example of pareidolia, a kind of optical illusion in which you face faces, animals or everyday objects to stimuli or insignificant means.
Anyhoo, the Curiosity rover will also investigate a rock called Flanders Moss, who won his name because of its dark-colored coating. Again, NASA will not know more about this object until Curiosity analyzes a sample after drilling. Two other rocks will also be investigated, Forres and Eidon, before Curiosity failed at the Highfield site.
Unfortunately, curiosity is the only mobile in Mars at this time. His compatriot, the Opportunity operator, has been out of service as a storm of dust forced him into the hibernation mode, a dream he could not wake up. NASA has not yet declared the mission, but we should know more about the status of Opportunity at the beginning of next year.[NASA JPL]