WHO or WHAT threw a rock at the Mars Opportunity Rover?!
Rock appeared in images, shocking scientists.
Scientists are baffled after a rock suddenly appeared beside the Mars Opportunity rover. Scientists currently have no explanation how a rock, the size of a jelly doughnut, ended up beside the rover.
Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, where the mission is managed, noticed a rock in a recent photo taken by the rover. When scientists compared the most recent photo to one taken 12 days earlier, they were startled.
Lead scientist Steve Squyres told the media, "It's about the size of a jelly doughnut. 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."
Could the rock have been thrown at the rover by an angry Martian?
Given the relative inhospitable nature of the planet, it's thin atmosphere and freezing cold temperatures, that's highly unlikely. There does not appear to be any life on Mars whatsoever and even searches for microbial life have been inconclusive at best with most results providing on outright "no."
So while it might be fun to joke and speculate that the rock was tossed by aliens, the reality is probably a bit more mundane than that.
Evidence of angry aliens? Probably not.
The first notion was that the rock was a meteorite that fell and happened to land next to the rover. Or possibly the rock was tossed near the rover by a close meteorite impact. Both of these ideas are considered long shots because meteorite impacts are extremely rare. The odds of such an event happening right next to the rover are astronomically slim.
The other possibility is that the rock rolled there from somewhere else. While that's more likely than it being the result of a meteorite impact, even that too is pretty unlikely.
The most likely scenario scientists say is that it is just a piece of rick churned up by the rover's wheels. Opportunity did a turn-in-place recently and a bit of rock may have been picked up by the wheels and moved.
Scientists say it looks like the rock has been turned over, so it's freshly exposed to the Martian atmosphere. This makes the rock worth studying.
The mystery will be brief, as analysis will reveal the origin of the rock. Still, it's a reminder that there's a lot of work being done on a planet millions of miles away with the hopes many being to travel there someday.
Let's hope there are no rock throwing aliens there to greet us when we arrive.
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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