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Spotlight On Mars - Image
Opportunity at a Sweet Spot on Mars
February 11, 2010
Read the Spotlight 'Opportunity at a Sweet Spot on Mars'

Image and Caption

Guess who has a "sweet tooth?" The Opportunity rover on Mars, of course. The robotic geologist is poised and ready to "taste" a rock named "Chocolate Hills."

This rock has a thick, dark-colored coating that is interesting to scientists because many of the rocks in the surrounding area have the same mysterious dark stuff. The coating could be remnants of a layer that was changed by the action of water and weather or, it could be a layer of rock that melted when a meteor (less than a foot across) impacted Mars, ejecting this rock and others and creating the crater "Concepcion". Knowing its origins will help them understand the history of Mars. Opportunity's mission is to figure out the "ingredients" of this morsel by studying the chemicals in it.

And, just where did the name "Chocolate Hills" come from anyway? Opportunity is at the rim of "Concepcion" crater, which was named after one of Magellan's ships. This ship was abandoned on an island named Bohol, in the Philippines. The island has some unusual cone-shaped mounds that are covered in grass. In the dry season, these hills turn brown, thus the inspiration for their name, Chocolate Hills. To chocolate lovers, these features look remarkably like Hershey's Kisses.

Stay tuned as Opportunity savors the mysterious dark coating on "Chocolate Hills" rock.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

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