Feeds

Mystery 'doughnut' materializes in front of Mars rover: 'OH MY GOD! It wasn't there before!'

Interplanetary ring toss, meteorite impact, Elvis' snack leftover, or something simpler?

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are puzzled by a mysterious rock that has appeared in front of the Opportunity rover, Curiosity's never-say-die older sibling.

Opportunity rock

Is someone – or something – screwing with NASA?

"Mars keeps throwing new stuff at us!" NASA Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres told Discovery News.

"It's about the size of a jelly doughnut. 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 rock showed up on Opportunity's cameras on January 8, but wasn't there days earlier when the indefatigable Mars rover took an image of its surroundings before hunkering down and waiting for better weather to recharge its solar panels. The rover has had a good recharge period, and is now being primed for action.

The team at JPL and NASA are serious-minded folk, so there was no mention of Martians deliberately playing mind games with us, Elvis engaging in a game of ring toss, or the elusive King of Rock 'n' Roll having dropped a tasty deep-fried snack item, when the astroboffins revealed the existence of the rock at a presentation about 10 years of Opportunity's travels across the Martian surface.

Sticking instead to the real world – or, more properly, worlds – Squyres proposed more prosaic solutions. One possibility is that a meteorite hit the surface of Mars and the troublesome torus is debris from the impact; however, the team has spotted no smoking hole on the planet, so the cause may be man-made.

Opportunity's six wheels kick up a certain amount of debris every time they roll, and Squyres said that his team is working on the theory that the rock was either lodged in the rover on its ten-year trip and it fell off, or that in turning the rover the pressure from a wheel flipped the object in front of the cameras, tiddlywink-style.

"You think of Mars as being a very static place and I don't think there's a smoking hole nearby so it's not a bit of crater ejecta," Squyres said, "I think it's something that we did ... we flung it." ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.