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NASA Space Science

Martian Meteorite Gets NASA Mars Rover's Attention 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the would-you-look-at-that dept.
coondoggie writes "NASA's Mars rover Opportunity will take a small detour on its current journey to check out what could be a toaster-sized iron-based meteorite that crashed into the Red Planet. NASA scientists called the rock 'Oileán Ruaidh,' which is the Gaelic name for an island off the coast of northwestern Ireland. The rock is about 45 centimeters (18 inches) wide from the angle at which it was first seen on September 16."
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Martian Meteorite Gets NASA Mars Rover's Attention

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  • So this rock, I suppose it Rocks?
    • I take it NASA engineers have never read Calvin and Hobbes?

      I know I wouldn't sneak up on any rocks on any foreign planets.

  • Something is missing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stumbles (602007) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @05:25AM (#33673172)
    If that is a meteorite, then where is the crater?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gsslay (807818)

      In the ground, which is at an angle in this photograph that would either put it out of sight, or off frame?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Lots of material spashes out of an impact. Also many small meteorites do not make craters, A thin atmosphere may help.

    • by tokul (682258) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @05:35AM (#33673238)

      If that is a meteorite, then where is the crater?

      Destroyed by winds and soil erosion.

    • by masshuu (1260516) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @06:03AM (#33673352)

      http://michaelscomments.wordpress.com/2006/11/19/meteorite-hits-car/ [wordpress.com]
      Look at the size of that rock. It didn't make a crater the size of a house, all it did was add an easy access hole to someones trunk. And roof.
      I imagine by the time a rock that size passes through the atmosphere and survives, its moving slow enough to rebound off the surface, or, in this case, get stopped by a car.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Unless it has the mass like the one that created the crater in the southwest USA. That one was far larger and had a entry trajectory that only had to deal with a few miles of atmosphere instead of coming in shallow and having a long time to do aerobraking.

        that same meteorite on mars if it had came in straight on at high velocity would have made a big crater.

        Plus one has to think of relative velocities. not everything in space is going 70 billion miles an hour, there is a good chance that that meteorite

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by blair1q (305137)

          Rocks coming from space arrive at speeds from slightly less than escape velocity to much more than escape velocity*. A rock following the planet in a similar orbit may enter the planet's gravity well at a speed relatively near to 0, but by the time it hits atmosphere the relative speed will be very high. And a rock falling towards the sun on an elongated elliptical orbit that intersects the Earth's will be going extremely fast at the point it reaches the atmosphere.

          The incident angle is more of a factor h

      • by pz (113803)

        http://michaelscomments.wordpress.com/2006/11/19/meteorite-hits-car/ [wordpress.com]
        Look at the size of that rock. It didn't make a crater the size of a house, all it did was add an easy access hole to someones trunk. And roof.
        I imagine by the time a rock that size passes through the atmosphere and survives, its moving slow enough to rebound off the surface, or, in this case, get stopped by a car.

        Yes, but keep in mind the Martian atmosphere is far less dense than the Earth's. That said, the rock in question on the Martian surface looks like it could well have bounced a fair way away from its impact site as well, and have been blown even farther during storms since it's mostly round and the ground is mostly flat.

        • and have been blown even farther during storms since it's mostly round and the ground is mostly flat.

          It's a rock, not a tumbleweed, and as you say, the Martian atmosphere is far thinner than Earth's.
      • by BitZtream (692029)

        On Mars? Forgetting the not so minor difference in atmospheres between Earth and Mars are we?

        • by masshuu (1260516)

          Air is Air.
          Its like water.
          Doesn't matter if theres a foot or 100 feet of water. Or if its aerated or thickened. You hit it fast enough its still gonna stop you, and it will still feel like your hitting a brick wall.

          I realize that the atmosphere is thinner. Just means an meteorite needs to have a slower relative speed to not make a giant crater.

          As a previous reply pointed out, many things effect the relitive speed of a meteorite.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2010 @06:13AM (#33673396)

      A) it's small. Small meteorites don't make much of a crater because their velocity is slowed much more than larger meteorites
      B) the area that Opportunity is visiting has experienced substantial erosion on the bedrock surface, such that even if it did make a small dent in the surface, it could be eroded away by now. More durable rock types (such as the iron-nickel meteorites found previously, and also the hematite "blueberry" concretions that litter the surface) tend to accumulate on the surface as the softer rock is worn away. It's what geologists call a lag deposit [encyclopedia.com].

      Incidentally, Opportunity has already moved a closer to the rock in question. The picture in the article was taken on Sol 2363 [nasa.gov], and there are now pictures downloaded to Sol 2367, such as this one [nasa.gov], and this one [nasa.gov]. The higher-resolution "Panoramic Camera" images aren't fully downloaded, but you can see the edge of the rock [nasa.gov]. Looks like the next download pass they should have some pretty good shots. Check the "raw images" page for the Opportunity Rover [nasa.gov] in the next couple of days and there should be plenty of closer shots.

      • by zoso1132 (1303697)
        Yup. They're going to approach it and take some measurements before moving on.
    • This isn't the moon, Mars has significant weather which can flatten impact craters in dust fields.
    • by JamesP (688957)

      OTOH they also have huge craters and 'no meteorite' in Mars

      (And on Earth as well)

  • Oileán Ruaidh (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Oileán Ruaidh translates to red island.

    • by benwiggy (1262536) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @06:12AM (#33673392)

      Oileán Ruaidh translates to red island.

      "Oileán Ruaidh" is pronounced "red island". FTFY.

      • A bit like "ay-lan ruah" apparently but yes, let us know if we're supposed to prounce that in an Irish accent, an American accent, or a Martian accent..... ;-)

        • by vigour (846429)

          A bit like "ay-lan ruah" apparently but yes, let us know if we're supposed to prounce that in an Irish accent, an American accent, or a Martian accent..... ;-)

          A closer pronunciation is "ill-aawn rew-ah".

          From a friendly martian.

        • by david.given (6740)
          Assuming Irish Gaelic is anything like Scottish Gaelic, it actually means 'red island'.

          Neither the Martians or Irish (or Scots) appear to have much of an imagination.

          • by Muros (1167213)

            Assuming Irish Gaelic is anything like Scottish Gaelic, it actually means 'red island'.

            Neither the Martians or Irish (or Scots) appear to have much of an imagination.

            Damn NASA, that unimaginative joint Martian/Irish/Scots space agency.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      Oileán Ruaidh translates to red island.

      No, actually "Oileán Ruaidh" translates to "what the fuck were they smoking when they came up with this name".

      Seriously, I really have to wonder sometimes about those NASA guys and their intergalactic space weed...

    • Modern Irish would be "Oileaacute;n Rua"; "rua" is "red". "Ruaidh" is an archaic spelling, and ("oileaacute;n" being a masculine noun) would most likely signify the genitive case. So a better translation might be "Red's Island", where "Red" might be a nickname. Google returns mostly proper name results for "ruaidh", including "Cuan na Maoil Ruaidh" (Mulroy Bay), suggesting that "Roy Island" might more apt. This appears in at least one local guide:

      Island Roy Oileán Ruaidh or Island Roy is a small is

      • by johndiii (229824) *

        Oops. That should be "Oileán" - forgot the ampersand. And didn't look carefully enough at the preview.

  • by ctrl-alt-canc (977108) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @05:39AM (#33673258)
    I bet that it is a meteorite that was ejected from the Earth due to a comet impact, and that reached Mars after a long journey bringing with itself traces of life.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Mars->Earth is comparatively easy because Mars has much lower gravity and (nowadays) has quite a thin atmosphere. I'm not sure Earth->Mars is even physically possible. It would certainly be many, many times less likely.

      In any case, out of the many thousands of meteorites found on Earth, less than a dozen are known from Mars. So it's very unlikely that the few examples that Opportunity has found are anything other than the usual bits and pieces from collisions in the asteroid belt. The iron-nickel

      • by JamesP (688957)

        Well, I guess the main issue is that for a Mars->Earth trip the object has to lose energy (easy) whereas for Earth->Mars the object has to get energy (snowball chance in hell)

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      So the ages-old mystery of how life began on Mars is finally solved!

  • Toaster-sized at 18''? That's a quite a toaster...

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If martians use a 18" toaster, this is very scary indeed....

    • If they can afford what are presumably Dualit Vario toasters, in red finish, perhaps this is why NASA is so often over-budget. This is evidence of why Big Government is evil.

      ---

      For the irony challenged, I don't really think NASA scientists are overpaid. What does the Tea Party use to make the toast at its tea parties, anyway?

    • Toaster-sized at 18''? That's a quite a toaster...

      Obviously a four slicer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Waffle Iron (339739)

      Toaster-sized at 18''? That's a quite a toaster...

      To be fair, the standard SI toaster was defined in 1897, when toasters were a novel luxury item and generally much larger due to the newness of the technology. The original standard toaster, made of solid iridium, is still kept in a vault in Paris.

      In 1992, the standard toaster was redefined with dimensions based on the wavelength of a particular spectral line of light given off by a nichrome toaster heating element heated to exactly 1044 K.

  • by bcmm (768152)
    What about this meteorite is so special as to deserve a rover's attention? The rovers are very expensive pieces of kit with, presumably, limited lifespans. We get plenty of meteorites on Earth, including some practically uncontaminated ones in the Antarctic. Is this an especially unusual space-rock? Does Mars's position mean it gets types of meteorites that earth doesn't?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Notlupus (1893060)
      Well the Opportunity Rovers initial mission was supposed to last 90 sols (1 sol = 1 day on Mars), and it has so far functioned for over 2200 sols, so anything interesting they can do with it they will just go for.
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:11AM (#33673664) Homepage Journal

      A rock which has been somewhere else can tell you about conditions at its source, and along the path it took to its present location. It makes sense to investigate rocks like this now because Opportunity may not live much longer. Best to take the opportunities (yeah) as they come.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      I have here a server that cost well over $450,000 new and I use it only to run Quake 3 tourneys after work.

      Using worn out hardware to do other work is simply smart. the rovers are worn out, hell it's a engineering miracle they are still operating. have you SEEN photos of how dust covered they are?

      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6e/Mars_Spirit_rover's_solar_panels_covered_with_Dust_-_October_2007.jpg [wikimedia.org]

      this was in 2007, it now has 3 more years of dirt and dust on them.

      • Actually, they've gotten very lucky with little "dust devils" over the years. The panels have gotten a small cleaning now and then.
    • There may be all sorts of science-y reasons why we would want to examine an 18-inch rock on mars, that I can get behind.

      But naming it? Seriously? If we start naming every rock and boulder and sand dune we run across, we're going to run out of all the cool names. Then later when we land on an area with an 1800 meter meteorite, we'll have to settle for "OR XXVI" or something dull like that. Plus, think of the future - we'll have stupid historical markers and protected rover trails all over the terraformed

      • But naming it? Seriously? If we start naming every rock and boulder and sand dune we run across, we're going to run out of all the cool names

        I suppose we can give them IP6 addresses. Got plenty of those.

      • by zoso1132 (1303697)
        They DO name everything they come upon. Every major rock, every corner of outcrop. You betcha. And what's the problem with naming things? Takes about, oh, I don't know, half a second. And you're worried we'll RUN OUT?
  • Umm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by vegiVamp (518171)
    That's not a meteor, that's a monolith. Kubrick got the scale wrong, apparently.
  • Bad naming scheme (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mathinker (909784) *

    > NASA scientists called the rock 'Oileán Ruaidh,' which is the Gaelic name for an island off the coast of northwestern Ireland

    Can't NASA scientists think ahead a little bit to make the future a safer place? GPS manufacturers of the year 2437 are gonna be pissed when their customers end up on Mars while trying to fly to Ireland...

  • Typical (Score:5, Funny)

    by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:46AM (#33673798)

    Typical, just typical. We spend all this time and money going to an exotic location to see the sights, but once we're there you want to spend all this time looking through the imported kitsch.

  • Apt. This means 'Red Island' in Irish, so Red Island in a Red sand sea, on a Red planet... I believe there is a slight misspelling though - this should be 'Oilean Ruadh' (no 'i' in Ruadh, though I haven't figured out how to put fadas over a's on Slashdot.)
    • by johndiii (229824) *

      The best way to get a fada is to use the acute character entities from html. So á comes out as á. Similar for é (é), í (í), ó (ó), and ú (ú).

      You can also use numeric character references, but that's not very portable. What works for Windows is wrong on a Mac, for instance.

      • ...so why are we still dealing with this shit?

        You can also use numeric character references, but that's not very portable. What works for Windows is wrong on a Mac, for instance.

        I thought Unicode (especially UTF-8) was intended to resolve this issue. With UTF-8 becoming nearly ubiquitous, EOL issues are a much bigger problem than character encoding.

        Don't get me wrong: I wish ISO-8859 [wikipedia.org] and CP1252 [wikipedia.org] would be incinerated by a bolt of lightning from Zeus for all the issues they have caused me over the years. The divine hammer can't be dropped soon enough: even Slashdot is stuck in the early 1990's by continuing to insist on using ISO-8859-1

    • by johndiii (229824) *

      Also, my take on the translation [slashdot.org]. "Rua" on Wiktionary [wiktionary.org].

    • by johndiii (229824) *

      jvonk is right; this should be done in Unicode [unicode.org]:

      • Á: Á
      • á: á
      • É: É
      • é: é
      • Í: Í
      • í: í
      • Ó: Ó
      • ó: ó
      • Ú: Ú
      • ú: ú

      From the Latin-1 Supplement Character Code Chart [unicode.org].

  • you will be endowed with the gift of martian gab

    of course, that could be just a bunch of blarney

  • by zrbyte (1666979)
    Sounds like Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn to me.

    Maybe the GREAT ONE lives on Mars.

  • The Rover makes a sword out of it!
  • Someone has been watching "the Brave Little Toaster goes to Mars" too many times.

  • Keep on chugg'n (Score:2, Interesting)

    What really is amazing is that the rovers only had a design life of 90days and they are still going after several years.
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Yes, it's amazing that despite expectations Mars has enough wind to mostly blow the solar panels clean. It's not amazing at all that NASA designed every aspect of the rover as robustly as possible even with the presumption of no wind and a consequent 90-sol lifespan. It is, though, amazing what the operations team has done given the practical realities and real difficulties of operating even a robustly designed rover on freaking Mars.

  • One earth, in very dry places, they sit out in the open too- nothing to cover them up or rust them. There is a spot in Antarctica with minimal snow accumulation and lots of meteroites just sitting there. Some sandless deserts too.
  • The thing that keeps amazing me every time I read something about the mars rovers is their stamina.

    Think about it, it landed in January 2004 for a 90 (ninety) day mission on the surface of mars.

    As we speak it's still driving around and making new discoveries, just mindblowing.
    That's 2343 days more than expected. Massive kudos to the engineers of these little wonders.

  • Since the island itself is in the northwest the Conamara (or Connemara) accent is probably the one to use, so it would be OH-lun ree. However, most Irish Gaelic speakers would pronounce it OH-lun r(ue)-ee'. Fun, huh?
  • Maybe it's my eyes but isn't the picture [nasa.gov] in the linked article showing a small, squat, bird-like creature, surfing on the ocean?

    Or perhaps I've not been keeping up with the latest Mars news!

He: Let's end it all, bequeathin' our brains to science. She: What?!? Science got enough trouble with their OWN brains. -- Walt Kelly

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