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Iron-Nickel Meteorite Zapped by Mars Rover’s Laser

Iron-Nickel Meteorite Zapped by Mars Rover's Laser
The dark, golf-ball-size object in this composite, colorized view from the ChemCam instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is a nickel-iron meteorite, as confirmed by analysis using laser pulses from ChemCam on Oct. 30, 2016.

The dark, golf-ball-size object in this composite, colorized view from the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows a grid of shiny dots where ChemCam had fired laser pulses used for determining the chemical elements in the target’s composition.

The analysis confirmed that this object, informally named “Egg Rock,” is an iron-nickel meteorite. Iron-nickel meteorites are a common class of space rocks found on Earth, and previous examples have been found on Mars, but Egg Rock is the first on Mars to be examined with a laser-firing spectrometer.

The laser pulses on Oct. 30, 2016, induced bursts of glowing gas at the target, and ChemCam’s spectrometer read the wavelengths of light from those bursts to gain information about the target’s composition. The laser pulses also burned through the dark outer surface, exposing bright interior material. This view combines two images taken later the same day by ChemCam’s remote micro-imager (RMI) camera, with color added from an image taken by Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam). A Mastcam image of Egg Rock is at

Figure A includes annotation labels for the nine points targeted with the laser and is presented without added color.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, developed ChemCam in partnership with scientists and engineers funded by the French national space agency (CNES), the University of Toulouse and the French national research agency (CNRS). More information about ChemCam is available at .