The Opportunity rover has come across a two-foot-wide rock sitting on the Martian sands that may very well be a meteorite.
The rock, nicknamed “Block Island”, was spotted by the Mars Exploration Rover team on July 18. They had the rover reverse course and drive over to it to get a better look. The image above is the official release, taken on July 28 (a.k.a. sol 1959 of the Opportunity mission.)
There are plenty of rocks littering the Meridiani Plain where Opportunity is now traveling but this one has a distinctly different surface texture than the others. It resembles meteorites that have been found on Earth, such as the fragment that was found at Meteor Crater in Arizona.
Block Island will be examined by Opportunity’s x-ray spectrometer to analyze its composition and find out if it is in fact of extra-martian origin.
Opportunity is currently almost a quarter of the way to its next destination, the crater Endeavour. Spirit, on the other hand, is still stuck at its position near Home Plate while engineers at JPL conduct tests at their Pasadena facility to figure out the best way to free her from the sand trap. More information on the rovers’ status can be found on the official JPL site here.
P.S. I find this amusing because I spent many summer days on Block Island….a hilly porkchop-shaped island several miles off the coast of my home state of Rhode Island. It’s a beautiful little part of New England, it’s funny to see them nickname this chunk of space rock the same thing, deliberately or not.