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The Curiosity rover discovered metal “cocoa” on Mars. NASA showed the photos

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The Curiosity rover is tirelessly exploring the surface of Mars. A few days ago, while exploring the Aeolis Mons elevation in Gale Crater, he came across an unusual object from the far reaches of space. The small but shimmering meteorite was named Cacao.

Cacao (or cocoa) is a cosmic shard with a diameter of about 30 centimeters. It consists mainly of metals such as nickel and iron. While it’s not the first meteorite that has been in Curiosity’s path since it landed on the Red Planet in August 2012, it’s nonetheless interesting.

As she reported NASA, Cacao stood out visually from the ground. While the surface of Mars is reddish with oxides, the meteorite was dark gray and had a metallic sheen. It was also smooth and rounded – a sign that it had passed through the planet’s atmosphere, where it had partially burned up.

Rover took several photos of Cacao and created one complete one from them. The photos are dated January 27, 2023, which is the 3724th day of the Curiosity mission on Mars. The scientists enhanced the colors in the images to match what a human would see.

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The Curiosity rover found a meteorite on MarsNASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Full of dimples

The meteorite is covered with grooves and pits. These structures are called regmaglypts and were formed when Cacao flew through the atmosphere. Even though it is much thinner on Mars than on Earth, it still generates enough friction to heat the surface of a meteorite. The regmaglypts on Cacao were most likely created by vortices of hot gas that melted the rock as it flew through the atmosphere.

How long Cacao has been on the surface of Mars is unknown.

The Curiosity rover found a meteorite on MarsNASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Where could it have come from?

Iron-nickel meteorites are the rarest type of meteorite to fall on a given planet – they make up about six percent of all rocks that have arrived from the farthest regions outer space. However, of all types, they most often have a chance of surviving in a larger piece and are more resistant to weathering, due to their composition.

Most iron-nickel meteorites come from planetesimals – small celestial bodies made of solid matter, which are the seeds of planets in the early stages of planetary system evolution. Over time, many of them turned into asteroids. This is what makes such meteorites interesting – they can be billions of years old and almost as old as our solar system.

The Curiosity rover found a meteorite on MarsNASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Meteorites like Cacao were the first source of iron on Earth. Ancient people collected them and used them to make knives and other tools. Even Pharaoh Tutankhamun was buried with a dagger made of meteoric iron, it is known that the inhabitants of the Arctic and Greenland also used similar ones.

Cacao samples will not be taken for testing and will not be sent to Earth. Only the future colonizers of Mars will be able to admire them. However, it is an interesting point on Curiosity’s list of discoveries. The main task of the rover is still to explore Gale Crater, discover the ancient history of Mars and find out why it became a dry and unpleasant wasteland.

sciencealert.com, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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