(PASADENA, Calif.) — The Curiosity rover surprised NASA engineers with the first Martian rock it examined. Scientists expected to find a rock similar to the ones seen on previous missions to Mars. But instead, they found a rock with a composition seen in many rocks on Earth.
“This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth,” said Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in a NASA statement Friday. “With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin.”
According to NASA, rocks on Earth with a similar composition usually come from processes in the planet’s mantle and result from crystallization of water-rich magma at an elevated pressure.
As NASA said in a statement, rock compositions are important because they “tell stories about unseen environments and planetary processes.” Researchers hope that the discovery of varied rock composition on Mars will give insight into the planet’s past.
The rock is around the size of a football and is shaped like a pyramid. It has been nicknamed “Jake Matijevic,” after a mission engineer who recently died.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN