Nasa has solved the mystery of a ‘jelly doughnut’ rock that appeared on the Martian surface – and says it was just a rolling stone.
The white-rimmed, red-centered rock caused a stir last month when it appeared in an image the rover took on January 8th.
More recent images show the original piece of rock struck by the rover’s wheel, slightly uphill from where Pinnacle Island, the name Nasa gave the rock, came to rest.
‘Once we moved Opportunity a short distance, after inspecting Pinnacle Island, we could see directly uphill an overturned rock that has the same unusual appearance,’ said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis.
‘We drove over it.
‘We can see the track.
‘That’s where Pinnacle Island came from.’
Examination of Pinnacle Island revealed high levels of elements such as manganese and sulfur, suggesting these water-soluble ingredients were concentrated in the rock by the action of water, the team said.
‘This may have happened just beneath the surface relatively recently,’ Arvidson said, ‘or it may have happened deeper below ground longer ago and then, by serendipity, erosion stripped away material above it and made it accessible to our wheels.’
Now that the rover is finished inspecting this rock, the team plans to drive Opportunity south and uphill to investigate exposed rock layers on the slope.
Even Star Trek actor William Shatner joined growing calls for Nasa to investigate the bizarre ‘jelly doughnut’ shaped rock on the Martian surface.
Shatner asked Nasa about the strange Mars rock found by Opportunity via Twitter during a press conference on the Opportunity rovers latest discoveries – asking mission controllers if they had ruled out ‘Martian rock throwers’.
Mission controllers responding by saying Shatner’s theory was ‘unlikely’.
‘We’ve got another question from Twitter, this one from William Shatner,’ NASA spokesman Guy Webster said, according to space.com.
‘He’d like to know if you’ve ruled out the Martian rock throwers in the case of the jelly doughnut.’
Mars rover lead scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University responded, saying ‘I think Martian rock throwers are unlikely, though we’ll keep our eyes open for those.’
‘We did actually have another scenario which we’re still thinking about.
‘It’s the ‘smoking hole in the ground hypothesis’ as I’ve called it.
‘We cannot yet rule out the possibility with certainty that there wasn’t a freshly formed impact crater nearby, and that this is a piece of stuff that was thrown out by a small impact. ‘
A controversial science writer has already filed a lawsuit against Nasa for their failure to investigate whether a rock seen on Mars is in fact an alien lifeform.
Last week the rock mysteriously appeared in front of the Opportunity rover, even though the same spot was empty a few days before.
It is believed the rock, which is made up of manganese, suplhur and magnesium, suddenly appeared after it was dislodged by a meteorite or even the rover itself.
But author Rhawn Joseph, who writes on a wide variety of subjects – including books theorising that life on Earth has its roots in outer space – rejects such mundane explanations.
The lawsuit, filed in a California court, is aimed at Nasa and requests that it ‘perform a public, scientific, and statutory duty which is to closely photograph and thoroughly scientifically examine and investigate a putative biological organism’.
Popular Science reports that Joseph has blasted the rock theory, since his examination found ‘the same structure in miniature was clearly visible upon magnification and appears to have just germinated from spores’.
The discovery led Nasa last week to issue a Mars status report entitled “encountering a surprise”.’
‘Opportunity encountered a slight surprise — a rock had appeared in the images that had not been there before.,’ Nasa said in a statement.
Source: Daily Mail