Scientists baffled after rock suddenly appears out of nowhere in front of Opportunity rover
A mysterious Martian rock that appeared in front of the Opportunity rover within days has left scientists scratching their heads.
The rover, which landed on Mars in 2004, hasn’t moved in over a month as it waits for better weather on the red planet.
Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 in what was to be a three-month mission. 10 years later, and it is still active on the red planet
But a photo taken on Sol 3540 (January 8th, or the 3,540th Martian solar day since the Opportunity rover landed) shows a rock that wasn’t visible in previous photos taken on Sol 3536.
Astronomers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, who maintain the rover camera database for Nasa, have named the ‘doughnut-sized’ rock Pinnacle Island.
The discovery was revealed by Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres in a ‘10 years of roving Mars’ keynote at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory last night.
Mr Squyres said the rock may be Martian rock that was blown out of the ground by a meteoroid impact and landed next to the rover.
Another theory is that the rock previously got stuck in a rover wheel and finally fell into its current position,according to a report in Discovery News.
‘[The rock] obligingly turned upside down, so we’re seeing a side that hasn’t seen the Martian atmosphere in billions of years and there it is for us to investigate,’ Mr Squyres said.
‘It’s just a stroke of luck.’
Opportunity has been on Mars for 10 years, despite being designed for a 90 Sol mission
A Sol, one Martian day, is slightly longer than an Earth day at 24 hours and 37 minutes.
Its mission has been extended several times as it continues to make new and profound discoveries about the red planet.
In December 2012, for instance mission scientists announced that Opportunity was exploring a special spot on the rim of Endeavour Crater.
The area, known as Matijevic Hill, was found to contain clay minerals, implying that the area was exposed to water billions of years ago.
MAIN PIC: An strange rock, seen here on the left image, mysteriously appeared in front of Opportunity rover in the beginning of the month. The rover, which landed on Mars in 2004, hasn’t moved in over a month as it waits for better weather on the red planet
Source: Daily Mail