Categories: Perseverance Rover

Here’s a Strange Rock That Perseverance Shot With its Laser

Perseverance has been busy lately.  After testing its systems out, taking the first sound recording ever on the Red Planet, and dropping off its helicopter sidekick, now it has the opportunity to work on its primary mission: stare at some rocks.  And occasionally zap them with a laser.

That laser is part of the Supercam system we reported on previously.  It sublimates part of a rock with its laser. The gas given off by the sublimation is then analyzed by spectroscopic cameras onboard the rover.  That spectroscopy of the smoke emitted by the rock helps determine what the rock is actually made out of.  

Image of the SuperCam laser and spectroscopy system that Perseverance uses to analyze rocks.
Credit: CNES

Recently, the rover came across a unique rock that piqued its scientific team’s interest.  They duly zapped the rock with a laser, and Perseverance posted a picture of the now slightly more pockmarked rock on its Twitter feed.  

The rover even challenged its followers to try to find the additional pockmarks created by the laser, which Twitter user @justpaladone and a number of others managed to do in replies to the main tweet.

Another Twitter user, Nicolas Worth, pointed out the similarity between the rock Perseverance is researching and one found by Opportunity in 2005 now known as the Heat Shield Rock. That rock turned out to be a meteorite made of 93% iron, and was the first meteorite found on another planet. 

Image of the Heat Shield Rock that Opportunity found in 2005. It was actually the first meteorite ever found on another planet.
Credit: NASA / JPL / Cornell

Whether or not Perseverance blasted a possible meteorite with a laser is still up for debate, and it’s probably going to be awhile before any results from the Supercam science mission will be released.  Until then Perseverance will continue blasting rocks and patiently waiting for its winged friend to take flight, which should happen in the coming weeks.

Learn More:
UT – Since Perseverance is Searching for Life, What Will it Be Looking for?

Andy Tomaswick

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