Nasa says mystery rock on Mars is like nothing weve ever seen before
From: Belfast Telegraph
A mysterious jelly doughnut rock which appeared in front of the Opportunity rover is like nothing weve ever seen before, according to Mars exploration scientists at Nasa.
Experts said they were completely confused by both the origins and makeup of the object, which is currently being investigated by Opportunitys various measuring instruments.
Images captured by Opportunity show the mysterious rock appeared on an outcrop that had been empty just 12 Martian days (Sols) earlier.
Astronomers noticed the new rock had appeared without any explanation on an outcrop which had been empty just days earlier. The rover has been stuck photographing the same region of Mars for more than a month due to bad weather, with scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California monitoring the images it sends.
Nasa issued a Mars status report entitled encountering a surprise, and lead Mars Exploration rover scientist Steve Squyres told a JPL event it seems the planet literally keeps throwing new things at us.
He said the images, from 12 Martian days apart, were from no more than a couple of weeks ago. We saw this rock just sitting here. It looks white around the edge in the middle and theres a low spot in the centre thats dark red it looks like a jelly doughnut.
And it appeared, just plain appeared at that spot and we havent ever driven over that spot.
Squyres said his team had two theories on how the rock got there that theres a smoking hole in the ground somewhere nearby and it was caused by a meteor, or that it was somehow flicked out of the ground by a wheel as the rover went by.
We had driven a metre or two away from here, and I think the idea that somehow we mysteriously flicked it with a wheel is the best explanation, Squyres said.
Yet the story got even stranger when Opportunity investigated further. Squyres explained: We are as we speak situated with the rovers instruments deployed making measurements of this rock.
Weve taken pictures of both the doughnut and jelly parts, and the got the first data on the composition of the jelly yesterday.
Its like nothing weve ever seen before, he said. Its very high in sulphur, its very high in magnesium, its got twice as much manganese as weve ever seen in anything on Mars.
I dont know what any of this means. Were completely confused, and everyone in the team is arguing and fighting (over what it means).
Thats the beauty of this mission
what Ive realised is that we will never be finished. There will always be something tantalising, something wonderful just beyond our reach that we didnt quite get to and thats the nature of exploration.
Squyres was speaking at an event marking the 10th anniversary of the arrival of Opportunity and Spirit on the surface of Mars.
While Spirit lost contact with Earth and was later declared dead in 2010, Opportunity has now roamed the planet far in excess of what was originally planned as a three-month mission. Nasa said that with its maximum speed of just 0.05mph, as of Sol 3547 (15 January 2014) Opportunity had covered just over 24 miles (38km).
Article from: belfasttelegraph.co.uk
READ: Mystery Mars rock reveals unexpected chemical composition
Mysterious rock appears near Mars rover Opportunity
Curiosity breaks rock to reveal dazzling white interior
Curiositys surprising geological finds and spectacular self-portrait
Weather On Mars Surprisingly Warm, Curiosity Rover Finds
Has Mars Preserved Evidence of Ancient Life? Groundbreaking New Look at the 1976 Viking Mission Findings
Mars May Have Harbored Life 3.6 Billion Years Ago
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