NASA Shock As Mysterious Rock 'Appears' On Mars Next To Opportunity Rover
The rock popped into existence in front of the six-wheeled rover Opportunity a few days ago, entirely out of the blue.
The "jelly doughnut-sized" rock, nicknamed "Pinnacle Island", is now resting in front of the rover, and scientists are trying to decide what to do.
"Mars keeps throwing new stuff at us!" said Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres.
Above: the rock (right) and the view taken by the rover just days before (left)
"It was a total surprise, we were like ‘wait a second, that wasn’t there before, it can’t be right. Oh my god! It wasn’t there before!’ We were absolutely startled." So far Nasa has two theories for how it appeared - either the rover flipped the rock over as it rolled forward, or it just landed there after a meteorite impact nearby.
While the rock's appearance is a fluke, it could be useful. Nasa said the side now visible to the robot hasn't seen the surface for perhaps billions of years - meaning it could be important to study.
Sources and more information:
Left: a photo taken 3528 days after the Opportunity rover arrival to Mars. Right: the exact same spot 12 Mars days later. Notice the difference? NASA JPL scientists did too: "It's about the size of a jelly doughnut. It was a total surprise, we were like 'wait a second, that wasn't there before, it can't be right.
Screenshot from Steve Squyres presentation celebrating 10 years of the Mars Exploration Rovers. A rock suddenly appeared where there was none 12 sols earlier. During last night's celebration at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of ten years of the Mars Exploration Rovers, mission principal investigator Steve Squyres shared several stories about the...
( via huffingtonpost.co.uk )