A Never Before Seen Rock on Mars

Scientists are investigating a bright white rock on Mars, unlike any seen before.

NASA’s Perseverance rover discovered the 14-inch-high boulder in a dark rock field at Mount Washburn, inside Jezero crater. Named Atoko Point by researchers, the 18-inch-wide boulder has a speckled, light-colored surface. Analysis by Perseverance’s SuperCam and Mastcam-Z reveals that the rock contains pyroxene and feldspar minerals. “Atoko Point’s size, shape, and mineral composition make it unique,” NASA stated.

“The variety of textures and compositions at Mount Washburn is significant, as these rocks likely originated from the crater rim and beyond,” said Brad Garczynski of Western Washington University. “Among these rocks, Atoko Point stood out.” Perseverance, which landed on Mars in 2021 to explore the ancient crater, found the boulder while traversing a dried river delta. The rover altered its route to avoid rough terrain, passing through a dune field to reach the boulder-strewn hill.

Some scientists believe Atoko Point’s minerals formed in a subsurface magma body now exposed at the crater rim. Others suggest the boulder originated beyond Jezero crater and was transported by ancient Martian water flows. “While Atoko is unique, the team expects to find more like it,” NASA added.

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