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Great martian meteorites!!

Heat Shield Rock 2 colour

I love meteorites. I love the idea of being able to hold a piece of another world in your hand, feel its weight, see the way it reflects light as you turn it round and round in front of your eyes. I love looking at them and thinking about how long they drifted silently through space before screaming and screeching through Earth’s atmosphere to slam into the ground, completing their millennia long journey. I love taking them along to my Outreach talks and showing them to and sharing them with people. I love giving a talk to a classroom full of kids then letting them hold one of my meteorites, and watching their eyes grow side with wonder as it hits them that they’re Actually Holding Something From Space…

And when I see meteorites sitting on the surface of Mars, fallen star stones that have come from Who Knows Where, it makes me fall in love with them all over again.

I have a small collection of meteorites, perhaps twenty, twenty five specimens, that I use in my Outreach work. Some I bought myself, some were gifts from friends (Hi Bev! Hi CAS members!), and others, quite a few others actually, were donated to me by collectors who wanted to support my Outreach work in schools. Occasionally I lend my meteorite collection to my local museum, here in Kendal, and they always prove very popular with visitors…

FOS 048

I have some favourites, of course. I adore the big hefty hunk-a-chunk piece of the Canyon Diablo meteorite that was a gift to me from my friend in Australia, it goes with me every time I give a talk somewhere…

FOS 020

I also love my piece of the famous Sikhote Alin meteorite that exploded in a shower of shrapnel above the Sikhote Alin mountains in Russia in 1947…

FOS 022

… and I have a very soft spot for my little twisted, tortured and contorted piece of the Imilac meteorite that came down in Chile’s Atacama desert, too…

FOS 023

Like all meteorite collectors, I dream, of finding my own star stone. But meteorites are hard to find. Think about it. 2/3 of Earth is covered with water, so that means 2/3 of the meteorites that fall from the sky go “plop” and are never found. Others will fall into rainforests, or onto mountain ranges or other godforsaken places. The ones that fall into or close to populated areas are hard to find because they will quickly rust away or be buried and lost in undergrowth or simply urban sprawl. But there are places where meteorites can be found, if you have the time, dedication and money to go looking. Meteorite collectors scour the sandy deserts and the snowy wastelands of our planet in search of new meteorites. The meteorites stand out because a) there are very few “native” stones in those areas, and b) they are much darker than their surroundings. So you will often find meteorite collectors scouring the Sahara desert, or the ice plains of Antarcticam, looking for new fallen star stones…

Another good place for meteorite hunting is Mars. Why? Well, there’s basically nothing much there to hide them. Yes, there are lots of rocks, but there are no forests, lakes or oceans. Most martian rocks look the same, but meteorites look very different, and really stand out on the martian surface. Also, Mars has been collecting meteorites for literally billions of years, and with to rain or weather to erode the meteorites away, the red planet is a veritable planet-sized meteorite museum…

So it’s no surprise that our two intrepid Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have found a few meteorites during their epic treks across the floor of Gusev Crater and the great wide open Meridiani Plain respectively.

Opportunity spotted the first meteorite in January 2005, as she was studying the crumpled turned-inside-out remains of her own backshell, close to the edge of Endurance Crater. Right from first glance it was pretty obvious that the basketball-sized object a few metres away from the backshell wasn’t a normal martian rock…

navR

Oppy drove up for a closer look… you can enjoy her view if you have a pair of 3D glasses handy and click on this image to bring up a large version…

hsr 2

And when the red, green and blue Pancam images came back, rover enthusiasts like me scrambled to make our own ‘true colour’ images from them, revealing “Heat Shield meteorite” in all its glory…

 Heat Shield Rock 2 colour

Seriously, how gorgeous is that? 🙂 That’s a METEORITE, sitting on the surface of Mars. It fell from the sky universe knows how many thousands or millions of years ago… and then, in 2004, something else almost fell on it from out of the sky – a huge piece of a Mars rover heat shield!

As Harry Hill would say, “What are the chances of that happening, eh?” 🙂

Of course, Spirit wasn’t going to be left out, and in 2006 she spotted a meteorite on the side of the Columbia Hills, close to a large chunk of dark, pitted rock with a rather wicked looking blade of sharp rock sticking out from under it…

Allan Hills Rock-colour

Here’s a close-up of the Allan Hills Rock…

Allan Hills Rock-colour crop

Now it’s Oppy’s turn to don the “Meteorite Hunter” badge. After initially racing past it on her way to Endeavour Crater she’s now gone back for a closer look at a big -1m across – chunk of dark rock that stood out against the brighter Meridiani landscape. This is what she saw when she pulled up alongside “Block Island”…

metRR

“Fascinating”, a certain Vulcan would say, raising one eyebrow. Let’s take a closer look…

Block Island

Fancy a 3D view? Of course you do…

B Island-LGE

Now that’s impressive. It looks, I think, a lot like the Heat Shield meteorite, quite ragged and torn in places. I also think it looks a lot like a meteorite found in Antarctica, the Derrick Peak meteorite…

derrick peak

We’re going to get closer looks at Block Island over the next few days, I;m sure, but for now just think about how amazing the rovers are to be able to show us things like that. 5 years into their 90 day mission they’re still surprising us, still exciting us, still making our eyes go wide with wonder.

Just like meteorites… 🙂

UPDATE:

In the past couple of days some new images of Block Island have come back from Oppy. Most people now seem to be agreed that it is a meteorite, but some still seem uncertain. Either way, it really is a fascinating rock!

Here’s a new, hi-resolution colour ‘portrait’ I’ve made…

BI col c

Seen in this new 3D view, Block Island is even more intriguing…

LHb

In close-up, some amazing structure is revealed in the “Pit” over on the right hand side there…

3d close up 3b

Hmmm… something in that image is going to cause the tin foil hat wearing “Look! There’s a yeti on Mars!” brigade to almost wet their pants in excitement. Is that… could it be… it is! It’s the fossilied skull of a horrific alien martian, protruding from the meteorite..!

3d close up 3 crop2

Over the next few days we’re going to see a LOT more of Block Island. I wonder what the other side looks like? What the underside looks like? Surely Oppy is going to circle this fascinating object like a shark circling a bleeding swimmer. I can’t wait for the next pics to come back!

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15 Responses

  1. Hi, back! [waves from Australia]

    P.S. “Great Martian Meteorites” sounds like a fantastic shout of surprise, in the mould of “Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!” and “Mamma mia!”

  2. Besides, it is very hard to think and believe that the meteors are formed before of a supernova! To know its past is of a great mystery which will not be reveled and the only real and true feeling is to accept such it is.

  3. I have a small Sikhote Alin meteorite fragment too. It is “oriented” , meaning when it came down it did not tumble and ablated on one side only.

  4. […] They’re just laying about on Mars. […]

  5. […] in this region is @Mars_Stu, who as well as everything else he does blogs at Cumbrian Sky. In this post he examines the various meteorites discovered on the surface of the Red Planet by the two intrepid […]

  6. […] out Stu’s blog Cumbrian Sky to see lots of other meteorites, including the one Opportunity found on Mars in […]

  7. […] out Stu’s blog Cumbrian Sky to see lots of other meteorites, including the one Opportunity found on Mars in […]

  8. […] out Stu’s blog Cumbrian Sky to see lots of other meteorites, including the one Opportunity found on Mars in […]

  9. Nice entry. I’m also a fan of the most foreign of rocks.

  10. Stu,

    How do you get the correct colours for your Mars images?

    Great site 🙂

    Cheers,
    Mick.

  11. Great stuff! I’m an avid meteorite enthusiast/collector and have several already, and I adore pretty much every one of them.. ^^ though my favorites are the stony meteorites such as chondrites and achondrites. Another place (much closer to home I might add) that is very likely almost completely littered with meteorites is the Moon. It would be beyond awesome if they would send machines specifically to search out and collect some meteorites on the surfaces of the Moon and Mars, and bring them back to Earth to be studied/analyzed and some samples made available to collectors.. There could very well be some really unusual types there that have never been found on Earth! 😀

    • i have a meteorite you never saw before,its round ,very heavy for its size that is base ball like but a bit smaller,no one will believe me when i tell them, but i promise you i am for real .pleas call me and tell how i can get help .i cant brake a piece of it off, its like steal or something. i am 43 and i have had it since i was 9 .my dad and i was watching a meteorite shower in Grand Pass OR,and it fell in my filed .no lie. and im down on my luck with 4 kids i am a single mom and i must sale it to help get me back on mt feet .my number is 573-739-9405 or look me up on face book Shannon Sundberg… thank you
      ,

  12. […] آپورچونیتی در سال 2005 بر روی مریخ پیدا نموده، به وبلاگ Stu’s blog Cumbrian Sky  سر […]

  13. Hi Sir ,
    I have rocks like Mars metorites with gold color rusty looks just like the picture on your Web site could I share a few pictures with you privately by chance

  14. […] out Stu’s blog Cumbrian Sky to see lots of other meteorites, including the one Opportunity found on Mars in […]

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