Image of First Laser-Zapped Rock by Curiosity Released

Posted on August 19, 2012

Curiosity First Laser Zapped Rock

Curiosity has already zapped its first rock on Mars with its laser. The fist-sized rock, named Coronation, is the first rock on any extraterrestrial planet to be investigated with such a laser test. The composite image, with magnified insets, shows the first laser test by the ChemCam instrument aboard NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. The circular insert highlights the rock before the laser test. The square inset is further magnified and processed to show the difference between images taken before and after the laser interrogation of the rock. You can view a larger image of the laser zapped rock here and find more details about the rock here.

NASA says Curiosity's ChemCam blasted Coronation with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivered more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second. The energy from the laser excited atoms in the rock into ionized, glowing plasma. NASA says this initial use of the laser was primarily to conduct a test, but researchers will check to see what changes took place in the composition of the rock as a result of it being hit with the laser pulses.

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP