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Curiosity Detects Flower-Like Rock Formation on Mars

Jan 07, 2013 02:29 AM EST
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Ever since its arrival on the Martian surface Aug.6 2012, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has been making interesting findings.

The latest in line is the image of a pearl-colored flower on the planet's surface captured by Curiosity, raising speculation over what the peculiar object could be.

The "Martian flower" image was taken Dec. 19 using the rover's small microscope-like Mars Hand Lens Imager. The unprocessed photograph was posted on Curiosity rover's mission website by NASA officials.

The Internet was immediately abuzz with space fans discussing the identity of the object on discussion forums. Some fans suggested that it could be a precious quartz stone rooted in the rock. One fan proposed that the image looks like pistils of a blooming flower, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

But NASA scientists were quick to dismiss the rumors, announcing that the flower is nothing but a small rock formation.

Last October, Curiosity detected a bright object on the planet's surface. Later, scientists confirmed that the object was a plastic material of the rover itself. But this time, NASA officials have revealed that the flower-like object is not debris from Curiosity, but belongs to the red planet.

In a mail to NBCNews, JPL spokesman Guy Webster wrote that the object "appears to be part of the rock, not debris from the spacecraft."

Besides the "Martian flower" image, Curiosity also displayed a panoramic view of its current location (photo). The rover is located in a shallow depression called Yellowknife Bay inside the Gale Crater. The image shows a thin curving line of rock formation, dubbed "Snake River", winding across the center of Mars' surface, reports Space.com. 

The Curiosity rover is currently on a two-year mission to determine if the Martian surface has ever supported microbial life.

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