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Appearance of Mystery Mars Rock Baffles Scientists

Jan 20, 2014 01:49 PM EST
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Scientists are baffled over the sudden appearance of what appears to be a doughnut-shaped rock next to the Mars probe Opportunity.

Steve Squyres of Cornell University announced the news of the mystery rock's sudden manifestation at a celebration of both Opportunity and its twin Spirit's decade on the Red Planet, Discovery News reported.

"Mars keeps throwing new stuff at us!" Squyres said of the find.

"It's about the size of a jelly doughnut," Squyres told Discovery News. "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."

The two photos - the one showing the rock and the one without - were taken 12 days apart, CNN reported, adding that Opportunity reportedly had not driven over the area during the interim.

The researchers are currently mulling over two main possibilities regarding its origins, the most likely of which being that Opportunity flicked it with one of its wheels, Squyres said.

"We had driven a meter or two away from here, and somehow maybe one of the wheels, kind of, managed to spit it out of the ground, and have it slide to this position," CNN reported the researcher as saying.

The other option is the presence of a smoking hole in the nearby ground currently spewing material, including the rock.

Either way, scientists are determined to get the bottom of the mystery. They have since sent Opportunity to take measurements and pictures, but so far the results have only introduced more questions. According to Squyres, the object is extremely high in sulfur and magnesium and contains twice as much manganese as anything else ever observed on the Red Planet.

"We're completely confused, we're having a wonderful time, everyone on the team is arguing and fighting," CNN reported Squyres as saying.

To see pictures of the rock, click here.

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