This is something you legitimately don’t see every day. Scientists have been looking for signs of life on Mars for decades, and while the veteran rover Opportunity hasn’t found any, it has found something that has stumped NASA’s smartiest of pants: a rock. Yes, a rock about the size of “a jelly doughnut” that is being called the rather majestic sounding Pinnacle Island has more or less just appeared in the path of Opportunity’s panning camera with no concrete (pun intended) reason for it to have gotten there, this according to a report by Discovery.
The rover didn’t roll over that area, and it definitely wasn’t there the last time they checked, which was in the span of sols 3528 and 3540. (A sol is a Martian day.) To remind everyone, nothing happens on Mars because nobody lives there, so the odds of something so relatively large happening are quite small. How could the rock have gotten there? Well, Mars Exploration Rover’s chief scientist, Steve Squyres, says it could have been one of two things, and neither involve an alien gently placing it there to be found. As Discovery reported:
Only two options have so far been identified as the rock’s source: 1) The rover either “flipped” the object as it maneuvered or, 2) it landed there, right in front of the rover, after a nearby meteorite impact event. The impact ejecta theory, however, is the least likely of the two.
“So my best guess for this rock … is that it’s something that was nearby,” said Squyres. “I must stress that I’m guessing now, but I think it happened when the rover did a turn in place a meter or two from where this rock now lies.”
Opportunity’s front right steering actuator has stopped working, so Squyres identified that as the possible culprit behind the whole mystery.
The scientists, despite the mystery, are very excited to study the rock which has likely been turned the other way for billions of years. As for the solution, even though them “flinging it over” is the most probable explanation, the investigation as to the origins of Pinnacle Island is still under way and likely won’t be resolved for a few days. So, it might be underground, mole-like creatures with giant bug eyes after all? I mean, no. But it’s still pretty cool, regardless.
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