Curiosity over Mars mystery blotch

Curiosity’s mysterious Mars photo stirs speculation –

Did Curiosity capture the galactic equivalent of the Zapruder film when it landed on Mars?

Seconds after the NASA robot’s landing Sunday night, Curiosity managed to squeeze off a handful of fuzzy, black-and-white photographs. One, taken with a device on its rear known as a Hazcam, captured the pebble-strewn ground beneath the rover and one of its wheels — and a blotch, faint but distinctive, on the horizon.

The images were relayed by a passing satellite. Two hours later, the satellite passed overhead again. This time, Curiosity sent home a new batch of higher-resolution photos. They showed the same horizon.

The blotch was gone.

Tip: Steve Liberace

NASA (see middle horizon for “blotch”)

It looked like a plume but was it a cloud of dust, some dirt on the lens…or did it capture a serendipitous moment?

The “crime scene” photo showed that the sky crane had crash-landed, as designed, about 2,000 feet away — and in the direction Curiosity’s rear was pointed toward when it snapped the first photo showing the blotch. The new photo also showed that the sky crane, when it crash-landed, kicked up a violent wave of dirt that had scarred the surface of Mars.

The impossible, it seemed, was possible.

“I don’t think you can rule it out,” Curiosity mission manager Michael Watkins said Tuesday. “It bears looking into.”

Though the coincidence would be of little scientific value, “it would be incredibly cool. … A crazy, serendipitous thing,” Watkins said.

Whatever it is, it’s not worthy of some far-fetched theory. WE ARE ON MARS, sending back imagery (again, but still!), you crazy people. That is HUGE! Big YAY for NASA.

Dear Congress… more money for science!

  9 comments for “Curiosity over Mars mystery blotch

  1. Paul V Ruggeri
    August 9, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    New term to use when referring to the people that think every little blob means life on Mars: Mars-splotch?

  2. Massachusetts
    August 9, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    I wanted to call it a “Marssquatch,” mapping onto the whole “Blobsquatch” thing.

  3. Massachusetts
    August 9, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    “WE ARE ON MARS, sending back imagery (again, but still!), you crazy people. That is HUGE! Big YAY for NASA.

    Dear Congress… more money for science!”

    THANK YOU for the reality check! There’s a very well-educated woman I’m Facebook friends with, and have worked with before, who is posting negatively about space exploration, basically saying we should be helping the poor instead, and exploring “within.” I, and others, in addition to pointing to concrete benefits that came from space exploration, have stressed how these things are NOT mutually exclusive, but she just won’t listen. It’s so frustrating. Any ideas what to say? Probably not much would change her mind but I would love to hear some good advice nonetheless.

  4. Jill
    August 9, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    Did you even read the article? Do you know what the Zapruder film is? Nobody made the slightest suggestion about Martians. There is simply some excitement that the lander coincidentally got a shot of its crane crashing in the distance.

    I don’t exactly see what the problem is here. Why is it alarming that NASA caught a cool photo by accident? If you don’t know, they actually caught two–there’s another from the orbiting observer, showing the capsule and parachute. Is it bad that the public is suddenly excited about exploring the solar system? Or has somebody jumped to the wrong conclusions?

  5. August 9, 2012 at 7:27 PM
  6. Massachusetts
    August 9, 2012 at 11:10 PM

    I think it’s good that we are exploring the solar system (though not everyone agrees, as per my post below.) I think there’s a bit of baggage from previous issues with Mars photos, like the famous face photo that was mentioned in the article, so people are expecting those nonsense hypotheses, and are perhaps over sensitive. This could be wreckage from the mission, or it could be some dirt on the lens or even an artifact of digital processing or compression. I think what skeptics on this site and similar sites want to see is a reasonable reaction, based on evidence, without too much wild speculation (especially if it involves extra terrestrial life.) Often we see rampant speculation without data to support claims, and these claims never seem to die (like the Mars “face’ that many still maintain is an intelligently crafted face despite all the debunking that’s gone on since it was first noticed.

  7. Massachusetts
    August 9, 2012 at 11:11 PM

    Yes. The smaller dog breeds definitely need less oxygen. If there was any doubt, there’s our proof.

  8. F 89
    August 12, 2012 at 8:19 PM

    Ask her how she thinks goverment money is spent and allocated. Then go form there. Not an answer,but it might start the ball rolling.

  9. Massachusetts
    August 13, 2012 at 6:21 PM

    UPDATE: It’s confirmed by NASA as the impact plume from the sky crane:

    So it was something after all. Something historical really! Not just a smudge on the lens.

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