Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mystery on Mars: Scientists baffled after rock suddenly appears out of nowhere in front of Opportunity rover

Mystery on Mars
A mysterious Martian rock that appeared in front of the Opportunity rover within days has left scientists scratching their heads.

The rover, which landed on Mars in 2004, hasn't moved in over a month as it waits for better weather on the red planet.

But a photo taken on Sol 3540 (January 8th, or the 3,540th Martian solar day since the Opportunity rover landed) shows a rock that wasn't visible in previous photos taken on Sol 3536.

Astronomers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, who maintain the rover camera database for Nasa, have named the ‘doughnut-sized’ rock Pinnacle Island.

The discovery was revealed by Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres in a ‘10 years of roving Mars’ keynote at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory last night.

Mr Squyres said the rock may be Martian rock that was blown out of the ground by a meteoroid impact and landed next to the rover.

Another theory is that the rock previously got stuck in a rover wheel and finally fell into its current position,according to a report in Discovery News.

‘[The rock] obligingly turned upside down, so we're seeing a side that hasn't seen the Martian atmosphere in billions of years and there it is for us to investigate,’ Mr Squyres said.

‘It's just a stroke of luck.’

Opportunity has been on Mars for 10 years, despite being designed for a 90 Sol mission

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