After journeying outside of NASA’s designated safe zone, Curiosity has stumbled across a meteorite, dubbed “Lebanon,” that’s about 7 feet wide. This is the first meteorite discovery by Curiosity, and a great opportunity for the rover to study the space rock up close; NASA said the meteorite is made up entirely of iron, with a smaller companion, “Lebanon B,” nearby.
NASA says the discovery was made all the way back toward the end of May, though the photo was only just released this week. Curiosity has actually spotted three rocks all in close proximity. Lebanon is the seven foot monster, while Lebanon B is punier. Meanwhile, the third rock is also described as a seven foot giant, though NASA apparently forgot to grace that meteorite with a name.
What’s notable about the closeup image shared by NASA is the angular cavities in the surface. NASA explains:
“One possible explanation is that they resulted from preferential erosion along crystalline boundaries within the metal of the rock,” the agency said in a statement. “Another possibility is that these cavities once contained olivine crystals, which can be found in a rare type of stony-iron meteorites called pallasites, thought to have been formed near the core-mantle boundary within an asteroid.”
Next month, on Aug. 5, Curiosity is set to celebrate its second Earth-year anniversary since landing in 2012. In those two years, Curiosity has returned some invaluable information back to researchers on Earth, including possible hints that Mars may have one day supported life.