While the world has been busy cheering over the successful landing of NASA’s InSight on Mars, the Curiosity rover is on a mission to study an unusually smooth and shiny rock on the Red Planet. This strange rock, which has been given the nickname of Little Colonsay, was originally detected at Vera Rubin Ridge, and now the six-wheeled Curiosity rover will be thoroughly investigating its composition and origin.
As Gizmodo reports, mission controllers at NASA are enamored with four rocks that they would like to learn more about, and perhaps the most intriguing of these is the one called Little Colonsay, which looks remarkably like a shiny piece of gold, at least in the black and white image that was beamed back by Curiosity on Monday with the rover’s ChemCam.
When scientists first observed images of this rock on Mars, they put forward the suggestion that it may actually be a meteorite, which would certainly explain its appearance. However, Curiosity will first need to undertake a chemical analysis of the rock to determine this. And fortunately for NASA scientists and the world, Curiosity is not only well-equipped with a spectrograph, camera, and laser, but also has its own special chemistry lab.
If Little Colonsay does turn out to be a meteorite rather than an average Martian rock, this wouldn’t be a huge shock or surprise as the Curiosity rover previously identified meteorites in both 2015 and 2016.
According to CNet, Susanne Schwenzer, who is part of the Curiosity team, explained that while the Martian rock may certainly look like a meteorite, only chemistry will be able to either prove or refute this.
“The planning team thinks it might be a meteorite because it is so shiny. But looks can deceive, and proof will only come from the chemistry.”
While Little Colonsay was already spotted by Curiosity on a previous sweep of the area, the Daily Mail reports that NASA officials have noted that the work on the Martian rock was not completed the first time around.
“Unfortunately, the small target was missed in the previous attempt, and with the information from that, Curiosity will try again.”
While Curiosity is at Vera Rubin Ridge, scientists will also be investigating another Martian rock spotted there that has been called Flanders Moss, which has “an interesting, dark colored coating, for which chemistry is required to confirm its nature.”
With the NASA Curiosity rover busy now studying the Martian rocks Flanders Moss and Little Colonsay, we should learn very soon about the composition of these rocks and whether one of them does turn out to be a meteorite after all.