After ‘popcorn rocks’, NASA now spots ‘potato’ in space, calls it ‘space potato’ : The Tribune India

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After ‘popcorn rocks’, NASA now spots ‘potato’ in space, calls it ‘space potato’

According to a June 18 post on the official NASA website, after months of driving, Perseverance arrived at ‘Bright Angel’, discovering oddly textured rock unlike any the rover has seen before

After ‘popcorn rocks’, NASA now spots ‘potato’ in space, calls it ‘space potato’

Space potato: Photo: NASA



Tribune News Service

Vibha Sharma

Chandigarh, June 24    

Everyone is familiar with the regular popcorn and potato but not many would be familiar with the ones associated with our neigbouring planet—the Mars.  

Interestingly, a couple of days after NASA posted about a “jumbled field of light-toned rocks with unusual ‘popcorn’-like textures and abundant mineral veins” (which scientists dubbed “popcorn rock”) on the Mars, the US space agency today shared on its social media page an image of ‘Space Potato’ Phobos—one of the two moons of the Mars—that was lapped up by social media.  

“Space potato Phobos is the larger of Mars' two moons—but it’s still only about 17x14x11 miles (27 by 22 by 18 kilometres) in diameter. Because Phobos is so small, its gravity isn't strong enough to pull it into a sphere (like Earth's Moon), giving it its lumpy shape,” the NASA stated along with the photo.

‘Popcorn rocks’ on Mars

According to a June 18 post on the official NASA website, after months of driving, Perseverance arrived at ‘Bright Angel’, discovering oddly textured rock unlike any the rover has seen before.

The team now plans to drive up the slope to uncover the origin of this rock sequence and its relationship to the margin unit. The discovery of these popcorn-like textured rocks would reinforce the hypothesis that water existed on the red planet in the past, it said.

As per NASA, “These rocks are filled with sharp ridges that resemble the mineral veins found at the base of the fan, but there appears to be more of them here. Additionally, some rocks are densely packed with small spheres, and we’ve jokingly referred to this as a ‘popcorn’-like texture.

“Together, these features suggest that groundwater flowed through these rocks after they were laid down. Next, Perseverance will gradually ascend up the rock exposure, taking measurements as it goes. Over the weekend, the abrasion tool will be used to take a close-up look and acquire detailed chemical information using the instruments on the rover’s arm.

“With this data in hand, the team will decide whether or not to sample. Once our exploration at ‘Bright Angel’ is complete, we will drive south back across Neretva Vallis and explore a site called ‘Serpentine Rapids’,” it added.

Phobos—the sweet potato

Meanwhile, the Mars has two moons—Phobos and Deimos.

Phobos is the larger one of the two with a 17x14x11 miles (27 by 22 by 18 kilometers) diameter. It orbits the Mars three times a day, and is so close to the planet's surface that in some locations on the Mars it cannot always be seen, as per NASA.

“Phobos was nearly shattered by a giant impact, and has gouges from thousands of meteorite impacts. Phobos is on a collision course with the Mars. It's nearing the Mars at a rate of six feet (1.8 metres) every hundred years. At that rate, the moon will either crash into the Mars in 50 million years or break up into a ring,” it adds.

Phobos was discovered on August 17, 1877 by Asaph Hall who named Mars' moons after mythological sons of Ares, the Greek counterpart of the Roman god, Mars.

Phobos means fear, and is the brother of Deimos.

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

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