Mystery Around Rock Appearing In Mars Rover Image

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(Image Credit: NASA)

NASA Rover Opportunity has photographed a rock that seemingly has appeared from nowhere, leaving engineers scratching their heads.

The rock popped up in the rovers sights in early January. A photograph taken on sol 3528 of the mission shows empty bedrock, however on sol 3540, the strange rock is suddenly there.

“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!'” Opportunity lead scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University¬†told¬†Discovery News. “We were absolutely startled.”

2 possible explanations have been put forward, the first that the rovers wheels may have flicked the rock by accident in its maneuvering. The second theory is that it may have been flung there by a meteor impact nearby to the location.

Squyres: “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, I think it’s something that we did … we flung it.”

The rock gives Opportunity the opportunity to do a bit of science. “It obligingly turned upside down, so we’re seeing a side that hasn’t seen the Martian atmosphere in billions of years and there it is for us to investigate,” added Squyres. “It’s just a stroke of luck.”

Original Article: Wired