Mars Rover Scientists Baffled By Mystery Rock

Andy Chalk

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Mars Rover Scientists Baffled By Mystery Rock


A mysterious rock has suddenly appeared in front of the Mars rover Opportunity, but where could it possibly have come from?

On Sol 3528, the Mars rover Opportunity captured an image of a small segment of the Martian surface. Twelve days later, on Sol 3540, a second image of the same area was taken - and this one was different. A rock, about the size of a jelly donut, had suddenly appeared in front of the rover.

"It was a total surprise, we were like, 'Wait a second, that wasn't there before, it can't be right'," Mars Exploration Rover Lead Scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University told Discovery. "'Oh my god! It wasn't there before!' We were absolutely startled."

There are currently two theories about the origin of the rock, dubbed "Pinnacle Island" by scientists: That it was knocked or flipped there by Opportunity, or that it was cast off from a nearby meteorite strike. The former is considered the more likely of the two, since Opportunity's front right steering actuator is no longer working, making it likely to disturb the ground during maneuvers.

"So my best guess for this rock ... is that it's something that was nearby," Squyres said. "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."

There is of course a third theory that daring minds are willing to consider: Martians! Seriously, think about it: What better way to mess with those boneheaded humans who keep running across your lawn with their stupid RC toy than booting a rock in front of its camera and then running away while they try to figure out where it came from? It's like an interplanetary ring-and-run!

Mission scientists hope to study the rock, which Squyres said is "obligingly turned upside-down, so we're seeing a side that hasn't seen the Martian atmosphere in billions of years," and the investigation into its actual origin is also ongoing and expected to be complete within a few days.

Source: Discovery [http://news.discovery.com/space/mystery-rock-appears-in-front-of-mars-rover-140117.htm]


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JoJo

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Knowing the Martians, this is the sort of joke they would play. They know full well they aren't allowed to appear on human cameras, so of course one prankster would throw a rock in when no-one was looking. Wonder if they'll find out who did it in the end.
 

martyrdrebel27

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JoJo said:
Knowing the Martians, this is the sort of joke they would play. They know full well they aren't allowed to appear on human cameras, so of course one prankster would throw a rock in when no-one was looking. Wonder if they'll find out who did it in the end.
I was wondering the same thing. Lots of years ago when they were finally forced underground to survive, most likely huddled around underground water sources, they forbade surface travel, butnof course every once and a while someone goes up, especially lately with our rovers poking around. I'm wondering if it's a capital offense there. But perhaps it was more than a prank, but a cry for help from a Martian scientist. Imagine a strictly regimented xenophobic society that is crumbling from within, and the scientists KNOW that earthlings are close by, but aren't allowed to disseminate that information.. But they're dying, so a desperate scientist does whatever he can to call attention to their existence, hoping that earthlings might save the Martians.
 

Frontastic

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Wow, those obelisks from '2001' really did oversell them. They are much more disappointing looking in real life.
 

CriticalMiss

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Maybe it's all a cryptic teaser for a Martian Manhunter movie? Starring Matt Damon in the lead role...
 

VoidWanderer

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Given the slight variations between the pictures, I am going with the mysterious 'wind' of Mars.

Did the entirety of NASA forget that rocks can be moved by wind?
 

Clowndoe

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VoidWanderer said:
Did the entirety of NASA forget that rocks can be moved by wind?
Not at 60 km/h (top recorded speed) it doesn't, and not without disturbing anything else. At least I hope so. I would hate to think that some bloke on the internet (you) just figured out what our "top minds" can't.
 

J Tyran

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Considering there are moving rocks here on Earth [https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=moving+rocks&safe=off&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=QrXZUvSpFYyBhQejkYGICQ&sqi=2&ved=0CEwQsAQ&biw=1920&bih=955] that scientists cannot quite figure out having them on other planets is all we need.
 

Mr.Mattress

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Maybe the Rock is the Martian?

I Think there was a wind storm just right outside the Rovers range and it blew the rock in a way that it made it land right there, in front of the Rover.
 

VoidWanderer

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Clowndoe said:
VoidWanderer said:
Did the entirety of NASA forget that rocks can be moved by wind?
Not at 60 km/h (top recorded speed) it doesn't, and not without disturbing anything else. At least I hope so. I would hate to think that some bloke on the internet (you) just figured out what our "top minds" can't.
I thought Mars had a lighter gravity than Earth, so the speed wouldn't need to be as high. My bad, I guess for making an assumption.
 

newwiseman

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Either Rover kicked it or it was tossed by a small far off impact... makes sense.

J Tyran said:
Considering there are moving rocks here on Earth [https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=moving+rocks&safe=off&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=QrXZUvSpFYyBhQejkYGICQ&sqi=2&ved=0CEwQsAQ&biw=1920&bih=955] that scientists cannot quite figure out having them on other planets is all we need.
http://www.livescience.com/37492-sailing-stones-death-valley-moving-rocks.html A very simple experiment using conditions that can match the winter in death valley seems to explain the rock movement quiet well.
 

Atmos Duality

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So, the news today is "Either the steering flipped something up, or the Martians are assholes."

Me55enger said:
Pfft, the chances of anything moving on Mars are a million to one.
[sub]....I GET IT![/sub]

 

Clowndoe

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VoidWanderer said:
I thought Mars had a lighter gravity than Earth, so the speed wouldn't need to be as high. My bad, I guess for making an assumption.
Yep, about 1/10th Terra's gravity. Still, 1/10 of a jelly doughnut is pretty big for the wind to move.
 

Saulkar

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Clowndoe said:
VoidWanderer said:
I thought Mars had a lighter gravity than Earth, so the speed wouldn't need to be as high. My bad, I guess for making an assumption.
Yep, about 1/10th Terra's gravity. Still, 1/10 of a jelly doughnut is pretty big for the wind to move.
Not only that but the martian atmosphere is 166 times thinner or 0.6% of Earth's mean sea level pressure.
 

Kieve

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Mr.Mattress said:
Maybe the Rock is the Martian?
God, I hope not. [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1772240/]

(Yes, it was a terrible film. That doesn't mean the premise isn't creepy as all hell anyway.)