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Another Shiny Object Seen In Pictures From Mars Is Now Explained

Last week, a blogger at Universe Today began a bit of an Internet frenzy when a reader spotted a shiny object in one of the pictures taken on Mars by the Curiosity rover.

There it was, a piece of what looked like shiny metal sticking out from a rock. It's not the first time the Mars rover Curiosity had spotted a shiny object. The last time around — back in October — a very small, plastic-looking object created the same kind of speculation. (Could it be?) It turned out it, the plastic looking thing was likely a piece of the spacecraft that dropped the rover off in Mars.

Today, NASA sent an analysis of the latest image from Ron Sletten, a team collaborator who studies soils at the University of Washington.

No, Sletten said, this is not a piece of debris from an alien spacecraft. It's actually a piece of rock that is more resistant to erosion than the rock it's embedded in.

"The rock on top of the projection is likely more resistant to wind erosion and protects the underlying rock from being eroded," he writes. "The shiny surface suggests that this rock has a fine grain and is relatively hard. Hard, fine grained rocks can be polished by the wind to form very smooth surfaces."

In some ways, said Sletten, it's a lot like what happens to rocks in Antarctica.

Sletten put together a slideshow that explains his thinking:

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'Never Crossing The Botox Rubicon': Amanda Peet Explores Aging In Hollywood

NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with actress Amanda Peet about her Lenny Letter essay, "Never Crossing The Botox Rubicon," and how to navigate aging in the image-obsessed entertainment industry.
NPR

When It Came To Food, Neanderthals Weren't Exactly Picky Eaters

During the Ice Age, it seems Neanderthals tended to chow down on whatever was most readily available. Early humans, on the other hand, maintained a consistent diet regardless of environmental changes.
NPR

Fact Check: Has President Obama 'Depleted' The Military?

Republican presidential candidates, led by Donald Trump, claim President Obama has slashed defense spending and will leave his successor with a weaker force. We break it down.
NPR

Apple's Lousy Week Could Signal Times Of Trouble For Tech Giant

Apple got hit with a lot of bad news this week. First, the company posted its first quarterly revenue drop since 2003. And then billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn revealed that he has dumped all of his shares in Apple. NPR explores whether the company is really in trouble or if is this all just a bump in the road.

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