Mars rock gives NASA scientists quite a thrill
By The Los Angeles Times
Published: Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 9:48 p.m.
The more Curiosity gets to know Mars, the more it seems like a big red Earth. Curiosity recently examined what appeared to be an ancient riverbed and conglomerate rocks similar to those at home. Now comes “Jake Matijevic” — a pyramid-shaped chunk of rock that's proved to be a surprise, even to NASA.
The space agency says that Jake, named for a legendary NASA engineer, is unique — unlike any rocks examined before on Mars. And that's saying something. Rovers have examined hundreds of Martian rocks.
When Curiosity team members picked Jake, they were just hoping for a “simple and uniform” rock that would help them compare results from two chemistry instruments.
Jake was the first rock analyzed by the rover's arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer; it was about the 30th on this mission examined by the ChemCam.
“It's a strength of Curiosity to have instruments that use different techniques to get at the same answers,” Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity deputy project scientist, told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. “But it's also a challenge for the science team — like trying to understand the plot of a story when one person saw the movie and another read the book. We were hoping that Jake M. had a simple plot.”
But NASA got more than it expected. The rock was diverse, surprisingly so.
“Our laser instrument saw a slightly different composition at every point it analyzed,” Vasavada said.
Although there was “broad agreement between it and another spectrometer that the robotic arm held against the rock, there also are some discrepancies yet to be understood. The differences between the two instruments are telling us that the rock contains a diversity of minerals down to the finest scales.”
The results so far reveal a good match, Vasavada said, for a type of Earth rock.
On Earth, these kind of rocks form from relatively water-rich magmas that have cooled slowly at raised pressures, said Edward Stolper.
The rock is “widespread on Earth, on oceanic islands such as Hawaii, and St Helena, and the Azores; and also in rift zones like the Rio Grande and so forth. So, again, it's not common, but it's very well known,” the mission co-investigator from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, told reporters.
Jake Matijevic also had an interesting, weathered appearance that drew attention.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Analysis: Kesler remains on Penguins’ radar as Shero looks bring back ‘Big 3’ formula
- Ex-Colts executive Polian: Approach free agency with caution
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- Starkey: Steelers know when to say goodbye
- A-K Valley high school notebook: Kiski Area soccer coach retires after 14 seasons
- Trib’s sports section, Sawchik honored by APSE
- Wikileaks founder teases about more secrets to be released
- With so many needs, Steelers can ill afford to miss in draft
- Stats Corner: McCutchen’s contract extension brings huge cost savings
- MLB notebook: Cardinals ink infielder Carpenter to 6-year deal
- Missing Malaysia Airlines plane a terror target?