Curiosity finds . . . wait for it . . . a ROCK on MARS!
Tales of an Earth-like igneous rock named Jake
NASA reports that the first Martian rock it has examined with the Curiosity's arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) shows curious similarities to a rare form of mineral found on Earth.
The rock, named "Jake Matijevic" after a JPL engineer who died just after Curiosity landed on Mars, was lasered 30 times on 14 analysis points by the rover in an attempt to discover the process that formed it. The APXS results show that it closely resembles rocks found on the volcanic islands of Hawaii and St. Helena that are formed when relatively water-rich magma is pressurized in an unusual way.
"When you make magma of this type on Earth it takes particular conditions of crystallization," said Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena during a press conference on Thursday. "Typically it takes place at relatively high pressure, at least several thousands of bars, and also takes place in conditions with relatively elevated amounts of water that is dissolved in the magma."
The process is similar to how the American settlers used to make apple liquor, or applejack, back in the day, he explained: by placing barrels of apple cider in snow drifts and skimming off water as it crystalized, leaving hard liquor behind.
In this case, the magma goes through cooling, which eliminates feldspar and other minerals from the rock before it hardens. On Earth, such minerals are then typically scattered by volcanic eruptions, but Stolper warned that it was too early to say if this was the reason for the formation of Jake.
No, that's not graffiti on Jake – those are NASA's aiming points highlighted
The rock is a pyramid-shaped lump of minerals, probably similar to basalt. Curiosity will now rumble forward another 100 yards to the east of its current position and begin drilling into the Martian crust for more samples. ®
I just can't help feeling slightly giddy when I see these crystal clear pics of stuff on another world.*
It truly is remarkable, and hopefully not an elaborate hoax like the moon landings.
* - this bit is serious, I'm astounded at the whole concept of literally seeing Mars in high detail.
One can't help but feel there would be fewer questions if you didn't ask the first one twice and the second four times. Clearly it's a device used to build tension, for comic effect in this case. Its use has recently been made popular by a character in an American sitcom.
Re: More funding required to investigate
I don't understand what you're saying here? We should cease the exploration of space and just wait for our planet/star to die?
If there is one scientific venture that should always have funding, it's space exploration. Travelling between stars is an incomprehensible challenge and the clock is ticking.
All the sysadmins here wouldn't trust their data to one hard disk. We at the minute are trusting one planet with our species. Granted it has a better retention factor than a hard disk, but tell that to the dinosaurs.