Last week, a strange, bright object was noticed by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity when it was making its first soil scoop. This object was thought to be from the rover itself or part of its landing equipment and influenced the researchers to think other particles they were seeing were of foreign origin as well. But new developments might suggest otherwise.
This high-resolution image shows what NASA believes to be a piece from the rover or its landing event. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
The object, which looks like a piece of cellophane, was seen by the six-wheeled, $2.5 billion rover as it was going going to make its first analysis of Martian soil. Watch this NASA report of the first scoop and the object that was thought to be a piece of “benign plastic”:
According to NASA, the rover made its second scoop at the location called Sol 66 and saw more “bright material.” The scientists discarded this scoop thinking it contained more foreign objects originating from the rover.
“Other small pieces of bright material in the Rocknest area have been assessed as debris from the spacecraft. The science team did not want to put spacecraft material into the rover’s sample-processing mechanisms,” NASA’s Guy Webster wrote on the website.
But after spotting more “bright particles” in the same area embedded in the soil, Webster wrote, NASA is confident it is “native Martian material.”
The lighter-colored fleck in the shadow toward the top of the image is what makes NASA “confident” the bright particles are part of the soil’s native composition. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
The team took a third scoop at Sol 69 in Rocknest and is analyzing it with its Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument.
New Scientist reminds us that in 2007 when the rover Spirit scraped at soil with a dead wheel, it exposed a different area of bright material that was later identified as silica.
Webster states that further investigations of these more recent bright particles are underway.
(H/T: Business Insider)