There’s been an ongoing parade of weird looking rocks found on Mars courtesy of the Rover camera. But this is a little different. Mystery Rock ‘Appears’ in Front of Mars Rover : Discovery News.
In a comparison of recent photographs captured by the rover’s panoramic camera, or Pancam, on sol 3528 of the mission, only bare bedrock can be seen. But on sol 3540, a fist-sized rock had appeared (raw Pancam images can be found in the mission archive). MER scientists promptly nicknamed the object “Pinnacle Island.”
“It’s about the size of a jelly doughnut,” Squyres told Discovery News. “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.”
But the rover didn’t roll over that area, so where did Pinnacle Island come from?
The “boffins” aren’t exactly “baffled” about it. They are rather excited. Speculation is that the Rover turned it over, it rolled into view, or it landed there from above. The failure of one of the steering actuators suggests that it the Rover made the piece mobile after which it fell into view. They named the rock Pinnacle Island and are eager to study it since it’s a side of Mars, they didn’t see before – the underside of a rock. It’s quite shiny.
UPDATE (21-Jan-2014) Ok, I guess they ARE baffled.
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” he said. “It’s very high in sulphur, it’s very high in magnesium, it’s got twice as much manganese as we’ve ever seen in anything on Mars.
“I don’t know what any of this means. We’re completely confused, and everyone in the team is arguing and fighting (over what it means).