Curiosity Rover Finds Weird 'Egg Rock' Meteorite on Mars

iron-nickel meteorite
This dark, lumpy, golf ball-size object is an iron-nickel meteorite. NASA's Curiosity rover discovered it on Mars on Oct. 30, 2016. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/LPGNantes/CNRS/IAS/MSSS)

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity stumbled upon a dark grey, golf-ball-size object last week that looks nothing like the typical red-orange rocks that are normally seen on Mars.

To figure out exactly what this weird rock is and where it came from, Curiosity used its on-board rock-zapping laser to analyze the rock's chemical composition. This test revealed that it is an iron-nickel meteorite that fell from the Martian sky. Curiosity's science team dubbed the newfound meteorite "Egg Rock."

These types of meteorites have been discovered on both Earth and Mars in the past, but this is the first time that Curiosity's laser-firing spectrometer, the "ChemCam," has been used to study such a rock. [Here's What a Mars Meteorite on Earth Looks Like (Photos)]

NASA's Mars Science Lab, also known as the Curiosity rover, spotted this strange, dark object on the Martian surface. The rover's Mast Camera (Mastcam) took this photo of the golf ball-sized meteor on Oct. 30, 2016. Further inspection with Curiosity's Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument revealed that the rock is an iron-nickel meteorite. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

ChemCam works by firing laser pulses at objects of interest. When an object is struck by the laser, the electrons around its atoms get excited and emit light of varying wavelengths, or colors, depending on the elements that are being zapped. By analyzing this emitted light, Curiosity can then determine precisely what an object is made of.

This strange rock is made up of iron, nickel, phosphorous and a few other trace elements, which led scientists to conclude that it is a meteorite that is non-native to the Red Planet. These types of meteorites come from the molten cores of asteroids.

This dark, lumpy, golf ball-size object is an iron-nickel meteorite. NASA's Curiosity rover discovered it on Mars on Oct. 30, 2016. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/LPGNantes/CNRS/IAS/MSSS)

"Iron meteorites provide records of many different asteroids that broke up, with fragments of their cores ending up on Earth and on Mars," ChemCam team member Horton Newsom said in a statement.

Scientists working with Curiosity (the rover is the centerpiece of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission) first noticed Egg Rock on Oct. 30 in photos taken by the rover's Mast Camera, known as Mastcam.

"The dark, smooth and lustrous aspect of this target, and its sort of spherical shape attracted the attention of some MSL scientists when we received the Mastcam images at the new location," ChemCam team member Pierre-Yves Meslin said in the same statement.

Curiosity came across the meteorite in an area called the Murray formation in lower Mount Sharp. The rover will continue to explore this area as a part of its extended mission, which is focused on learning how Mars' environment changed over time, and whether the environment could have possibly harbored life in the past.

Email Hanneke Weitering at or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.