News / Science & Technology

Mystery White Rock Inexplicably Appears Near NASA Mars Rover

The images are from Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam). The one on the left is from 3,528th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Dec. 26, 2013). The one on the right, with the newly arrived rock, is from Sol 3540 (Jan. 8, 2014). ( NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)
The images are from Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam). The one on the left is from 3,528th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Dec. 26, 2013). The one on the right, with the newly arrived rock, is from Sol 3540 (Jan. 8, 2014). ( NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)
Reuters
Scientists are stumped as to how a rock mysteriously appeared in images taken two weeks apart by NASA's Mars rover Opportunity.

The rover, which landed in an area known as Meridiani Planum a decade ago, is exploring the rim of a crater for signs of past water.

Another rover, Curiosity, touched down on the opposite side of the planet in 2012 for a more ambitious mission to look for past habitable environments. For the moment, however, scientists are pondering a more immediate question.

On Jan. 8, while preparing to use its robotic arm for science investigation, Opportunity sent back a picture of its work area.

Oddly, it showed a bright white rock, about the size of a doughnut, where only barren bedrock had appeared in a picture taken two weeks earlier. Scientists suspect the rock was flipped over by one of the rover's wheels.

It also may have been deposited after a meteorite landed nearby.

Either way, the rock, dubbed "Pinnacle Island" is providing an unexpected science bonus.

"Much of the rock is bright-toned, nearly white," NASA said in a statement on Tuesday. "A portion is deep red in color.

Pinnacle Island may have been flipped upside-down when a wheel dislodged it, providing an unusual circumstance for examining the underside of a Martian rock."

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by: mike from: Arizona
January 31, 2014 11:00 AM
It looks like a new life form, similar to the anemones found around the deep ocean 'Black Smoker" vents. This one would have to be made from a sulfur/magnesium base. Or use such chemicals as a food or heat source.

by: gary from: United Kingdom
January 25, 2014 9:44 PM
"Quadrata Martis", latin for the squares of Mars...
have a look at this latest discovery as its probably
now the biggest new mystery of Mars imaging.(click below)
http://gigapan.com/gigapans/148682

by: Gigi from: Denver
January 25, 2014 2:18 AM
Between 8 and 9 o'clock, in the after picture, you can see the edge of an object of similar color to the rock. I would assume it's not apart of opportunity because the article says that it took the picture as it was Preparing it's workspace. Meteor debris? It just landed and fell perfectly into the bedrock without disturbing a single rock nearby? Sounds very fishy.

by: Stephen from: Jarrow, UK
January 24, 2014 12:49 PM
It's obvious, some Martian kids where throwing stones at the scary alien who's landed on their planet.

by: oldsalt from: Portland, Oregon
January 23, 2014 6:02 PM
It appears that it may be a simple crystal formation. I have observed this many times on the damp cement walls of basements in the Pacific northwest USA. Chemicals in the cement would come out of the wall and form a circle of material on the cement that looked very much like that in the photo. "Dampness", ie the availability of martian water has been established. I am surprised that this has not been at least mentioned, even dismissively.

by: Norb from: Brazil
January 23, 2014 9:03 AM
Doesnt make sense for dry ice to have formed over a single nucleation point on a relatively wide area like that.

by: dante from: pa
January 23, 2014 8:29 AM
is it part of the rover? some part that flaked off? and who made the brick road?
In Response

by: ETHERHEAD from: USMN
January 30, 2014 11:51 PM
Why not wind blown remains of Soviet Mars2/3 crashed/lost or Viking parachute/rocket wadding? There appears a small led/aluminum blue(atmospheric reflection of) lens flare that is to "Hot" for the weak luminescence-quash digital sensor also.

by: Nicolas from: California
January 22, 2014 9:40 PM
At pressures below 5.13 atm and temperatures below −56.4 °C (−69.5 °F) (the triple point), CO2 changes from a solid to a gas with no intervening liquid form, through a process called sublimation. The opposite process is called deposition, where CO2 changes from the gas to solid phase (dry ice)

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