Oooh, new shiny thing on Mars (UPDATE!)

Originally posted on Feb 6, 2013 10:48 EST.

Now THIS is really interesting!

Another Weird Shiny Thing on Mars.

The Curiosity Mars rover has found some strange-looking little things on Mars…Now the rover has imaged a small metallic-looking protuberance on a rock. Visible in the image above (the green lines point to it), the protuberance appears to have a high albedo and even projects a shadow on the rock below. The image was taken with the right Mastcam on Curiosity on Sol 173 — January 30, 2013 here on Earth — and was pointed out to us by Elisabetta Bonora, an image editing enthusiast from Italy.

Credit: NASA/JPL/CaltechMalin Space Science Systems

Credit: NASA/JPL/CaltechMalin Space Science Systems

Here is a closeup:

Credit: NASA/JPL/CaltechMalin Space Science Systems.

Credit: NASA/JPL/CaltechMalin Space Science Systems.

I have no idea. I’m not seeing any followup to this story after almost 24 hours but I expect it will be fodder for the mystery sites. I’m curious! If you find a link to anything more on this, please include it in the comments.

More strange stuff found by the Curiosity Rover:

Crystal mystery of Mars.

Is there a fine for littering on Mars?.

Shiny mystery object on Mars attracts roving eyes.

Geological puzzle: Unidentified spherules found on Mars .

UPDATE (11-Feb-2013)  Universe today has an update. YAY!
Scientist Explains the Weird Shiny Thing on Mars.

It’s a knob, yes, says Ronald Sletten from the Mars Science Laboratory team, but a completely natural formation. Sletten, from the University of Washington, explained that, not surprisingly, it is actually a part of the rock that is different — harder and more resistant to erosion — than the rest of the rock it’s embedded in.

On Earth, as on Mars, “often you can see knobs or projections on surfaces eroded by the wind, particularly when a harder, less erodible rock is on top,” Sletten said, via an email to Universe Today from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory media relations office. “The rock on top of the projection is likely more resistant to wind erosion and protects the underlying rock from being eroded.”

As far as why it appears shiny, Sletten said, “The shiny surface suggests that this rock has a fine grain and is relatively hard. Hard, fine grained rocks can be polished by the wind to form very smooth surfaces.”

Finally, a decent explanation for this. Not QUITE as satisfying as actual metal and I do think more needs to be explained here but I was getting a little worried after nearly a week of no updates. I admit, I still like our ideas better. But I really didn’t expect it to be an actual water spigot…

Hat tip to @fortean_UK on Twitter


  28 comments for “Oooh, new shiny thing on Mars (UPDATE!)

  1. February 6, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    It’s clearly a handle. The question now, if this were an Asimov story, is do we pull it?

  2. Stevarious
    February 6, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    It’s clearly a doorknob.

  3. February 6, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    It’s a lost filling from the Face.

  4. February 6, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Well, I want to know why the rock at front center has a USB port.

  5. February 6, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    It’s the handle that shut off all the water on Mars.

  6. February 6, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    Well played, vagrarian. Well played. 🙂

  7. February 6, 2013 at 11:18 AM


  8. Douglas Boyle
    February 6, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    I’m pretty sure that’s where Curiosity connects it’s iPod

  9. Jack
    February 6, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Looks an awful lot like a draft beer spigot. Budweiser! Gosh, those jerks are everywhere.

  10. February 6, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Clearly, it’s a door knob, and the rock it’s on is door – it is therefore a hobbit hole. This is just a grand publicity stunt from Peter Jackson to get more people to go see The Hobbit.

  11. February 6, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    Turning the picture upside-down is instructive. The impression of a stalk rising out of the rock vanishes and it looks like just another wind-carved fluting with a couple of shiny stones embedded. Still weird, but much less so.

  12. Adam
    February 6, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    Honestly, it looks like part of the rock and the minerals in the rock happened to form with a shiny, potentially metallic protuberance. It looks like dried metal that had been melted into a strange shape.

  13. February 6, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    How far from the landing site is the rover? It may be debris from that event. Other than that, the picture is of such low resolution that I can’t even tell if it is a shadow or dent in the rock.

  14. Chris Howard
    February 6, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    Everyone knows that “Shiny = Alien artifact.” Duh?

  15. February 6, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    I’m going with the new Monopoly cat token as my bad guess.

  16. One Eyed Jack
    February 6, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Just as all buttons must be pushed, all handles must be pulled.

  17. One Eyed Jack
    February 6, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    Well that sucks.

    If this is from Peter Jackson, you know he’s going to break the story into 3 parts to milk more money out of it.

  18. RDW
    February 6, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    Serious answer : it looks metallic, I’d guess maybe aluminum, probably arriving and/or being formed with an impact from an asteroid a long, long, time ago. Joke answer : Bigfoot !!!!!…. although that’s probably getting really old and un-funny .

  19. Nigel
    February 6, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    I have no imagination. Looks like a blob of sodder to me. Is there a circuit board on Mars?

  20. vondrax
    February 6, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    NOOOOO! Don’t turn it!

    That’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do!

  21. John Van Vliet
    February 7, 2013 at 4:14 AM

    As someone who has been working with the MastCam data since the landing
    the image used here is a “false color ” image .
    to simulate what it would look like if it were on THE EARTH under a blue sky
    here is a link to the jpg copy of the RAW data

    Now this image also needs a bit of color correction .It is white balanced but the camera over saturates the green layer by 30%

    There was volcanic activity on Mars ,so it is likely there will be finds of some metals in a non “ore” form

    a “glass” that was sandblasted to a polish by the very high wind at very low pressure .

    The very fine dust will polish objects

  22. Spectre
    February 7, 2013 at 4:47 AM

    It’s a clanger poking its head out!

  23. Mark Robinson
    February 8, 2013 at 6:49 AM

    So that’s where I left my phone!

  24. Jonathan e
    February 8, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    Quite clearly a Tap/fawcet Tun it. Don’t force it.

  25. RDW
    February 11, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    Ahhhh. Polished stone. That makes much more sense than freakishly formed spontaneous aluminum. Still, speculating was a lot of fun. I Love this place.

  26. jammitweapon
    February 12, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    Why did I hear that in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice?

  27. February 12, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    There’s an article just published on tries to explain it in terms of wind erosion, & gives a link to a NASA pdf. Gives pictures & attempted explainations of strange examples of wind erosion on different rock strata on Earth in comparision with some on Mars. Not entirely convinced, but one of the “ventifects” as they label it does resemble a kit for a Henry Moore sculpture. It does look like a handle, so the toilet must very close by.

  28. Harrow
    February 14, 2013 at 3:03 AM

    It’s obviously a bit of debris left behind by a previous robotic Mars explorer. Some parts of Mars are positively littered with such junk.


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