NASA solves mystery of Mars 'doughnut' rock

Feb 15, 2014
NASA image shows before-and-after of the same patch of ground in front of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity 13 days apart documenting the arrival of a bright rock onto the scene, on January 22, 2014

NASA scientists were finally able to explain the origin of the mysterious rock shaped like a jelly doughnut that appeared near the rover Opportunity in early January.

The small, round object suddenly popped up in pictures taken 12 days apart by the US 's decade-old Opportunity rover.

On December 26, 2013, it was not there. On January 8, it was. But what is it?

The explanation is somewhat prosaic: the 1.5 inches (four centimeters) wide, white-rimmed, red-centered , dubbed Pinnacle Island, is a piece of a larger rock that was broken and moved by Opportunity's wheel in early January.

"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 on Friday.

"We drove over it. We can see the track. That's where Pinnacle Island came from."

The rock however is unusual.

A close examination with Opportunity's spectrometer showed "high levels of elements such as manganese and sulphur, suggesting these water-soluble ingredients were concentrated in the rock by the action of water," NASA 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."

Opportunity is one of two Mars Exploration Rovers. Its companion, Spirit, stopped communicating with Earth in 2010.

Both have lived long beyond their planned 90-day missions and have made important discoveries about water on Mars and environments that might have supported microbial life in the distant past.

Explore further: Rock appears mysteriously in front of Mars Opportunity rover

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User comments : 17

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The Shootist
1 / 5 (5) Feb 15, 2014
No photo of the progenitor rock? Why not, NASA?
Skepticus_Rex
4.4 / 5 (7) Feb 15, 2014
No photo of the progenitor rock? Why not, NASA?


http://www.nasa.g...7942.jpg
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Feb 15, 2014
Compelling, not dispositive, but now NASA has driven on beyond a 'thunder egg' unskeptically?
phlox1
5 / 5 (5) Feb 15, 2014
No photo of the progenitor rock? Why not, NASA?


http://www.nasa.g...7942.jpg


Nice! it looks that the rover lost a nut (look a little right from the upper arrow)
PoppaJ
1 / 5 (4) Feb 15, 2014
I will believe there explanation when I see the pictures they are referencing.
jerryjbrown
5 / 5 (4) Feb 15, 2014
So amazing that we have a vehicle on another planet!!! The pics are awesome!
bearly
1.6 / 5 (5) Feb 16, 2014
I believe they have had more than enough time to "photoshop" the "evidence".
Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (4) Feb 16, 2014
No photo of the progenitor rock? Why not, NASA?


http://www.nasa.g...7942.jpg


Nice! it looks that the rover lost a nut (look a little right from the upper arrow)


I didn't notice that. It does look like a nut popped off. Conspiracists, on the other hand, will instead claim it is the lost wedding ring of the alien who put the jelly doughnut there. :-)
Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (3) Feb 16, 2014
I believe they have had more than enough time to "photoshop" the "evidence".


I saw no evidence of photoshopping in that photo except to add the arrows. Here is a high-resolution photo without the arrows. It will take some time to download if you aren't using high-speed broadband.

http://photojourn...fig1.tif

Other formats are available here:

http://photojourn...PIA17942
Nestle
1 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2014
Conspiracists, on the other hand, will instead claim it is the lost wedding ring of the alien who put the jelly doughnut there.
It's evident, the rover turned back and forth at place in an effort to make an illusion of the driving over pebble under heavy load...;-)
Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (2) Feb 16, 2014
It is actually evidence that NASA turned the rover around, like they said that they did, so that they could try to get a look at the source of the "jelly doughnut" rock.
Nestle
1 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2014
Yep - and it destroyed the only evidence of Martians, which we had so far. The rover is equipped with cameras on long movable arms. It's not necessary to steer with it at place if you want to look at the place, which they drove over.
Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (3) Feb 17, 2014
That must be how the wedding ring got there. They drove over the poor thing several times to grind him into the soil. Then again, I thought those Martians were transparent. :-)
Lex Talonis
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 17, 2014
It was Hansel and Grettle and a fat guy from the Simpsons who dropped a bit of his donut, on their way from the food stalls to the moon mission set.

evropej
5 / 5 (1) Feb 17, 2014
Its amazing to see how some "brains" think. This is why government withholds information like this and I see lots of good reasons on a daily basis. I mean a flipped rock took this long to explain, can you imagine something more complex like two rocks, or god even knows three rocks? Its like looking in the clouds with special people.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 17, 2014
No photo of the progenitor rock? Why not, NASA?


http://www.nasa.g...7942.jpg


Nice! it looks that the rover lost a nut (look a little right from the upper arrow)
Jesus theres the real mystery.
Skepticus_Rex
not rated yet Feb 17, 2014
Its amazing to see how some "brains" think. This is why government withholds information like this and I see lots of good reasons on a daily basis. I mean a flipped rock took this long to explain, can you imagine something more complex like two rocks, or god even knows three rocks? Its like looking in the clouds with special people.


It is something more complex than rocket science to command the rover from so far away. There are a number of steps that must be taken before sending the commands to move, including assessing current situation/location, programming, and so forth. You really only get one shot in some situations. It takes about a minimum of 4 minutes to send a signal to Mars, and somewhere between 13 minutes 44 seconds and 24 minutes to get a reply and see a result. One wrong instruction set can kill, seriously maim, or trap the rover in place. A lot of people aren't aware of the complexity of these operations on another planet. Things take time and patience.

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