Nasa says Mars mystery rock that ‘appeared’ from nowhere is ‘like nothing we’ve ever seen before’

There is a really interesting story in today’s Independent that caught my eye ...

A mysterious rock which appeared in front of the Opportunity rover is “like nothing we’ve ever seen before”, according to Mars exploration scientists at Nasa.

Experts said they were “completely confused” by both the origins and makeup of the object, which is currently being investigated by Opportunity’s various measuring instruments.

Astronomers noticed the new rock had “appeared” without any explanation on an outcrop which had been empty just days earlier.

Now go on, admit it, your first thought is “Aliens”, right? And of course you want to see it as well (and that is good, because it means you are just as curious about this as they are). Well here it is, the before, and then again a few days later the exact same spot with what they describe as a “jelly doughnut” …(That describes just the visual shape, not the texture, it is just a rock and is not organic).

Go on now, admit it, you are still thinking “Aliens”, well if so, then please stop it.

OK, so how did it suddenly appear? There are actually several theories at the moment:

  • a smoking hole in the ground
  • meteor
  • a rover wheel flicked it into place (they did drive near that spot at one point)

OK, so that makes sense, so what is the big deal then if it is indeed just a rock?

They did some analysis of it and discovered that it is like nothing ever seen before, and that is what makes it truly interesting, “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.“.

If you are still thinking, “aliens”, then really please stop it, because this is an interesting geological discovery that prompts questions such as, “How can something with that composition exist?”, and so that is the scope of the “unknown” and “mysterious” here. You know in your heart of hearts, that some of the media will spin it way beyond what it actually is, and frustrating as that is, it is also understandable because they are motivated by their desire for juicy headlines to sell papers. So while indeed the headline in the “Independent” is wholly factual, it does tend to imply a bit more than it actually is, an almost implicit “There be aliens” … er no.

What this does however illustrate very well is that it is an example of this …

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…” – Isaac Asimov


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