NPR : News

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:

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

At 75, Wonder Woman Lassos In A New Generation With An Ageless Fight

As the launch of the upcoming film coincides with the heroine's Comic-Con fandom, Wonder Woman appears to be hooking new fans for the same reasons she was birthed in 1941: justice, peace and feminism.
NPR

For Japanese Parents, Gorgeous Bento Lunches Are Packed With High Stakes

It's cute ... but is it too much cultural pressure?
NPR

Green Party's Jill Stein Wants To Be 'Plan B' For Bernie Sanders Supporters

"I will feel horrible if Donald Trump is elected, I will feel horrible if Hillary Clinton is elected," says Green Party candidate Jill Stein. She says the two big parties lock out other voices.
NPR

Experimental Plane Sets Off On Final Leg Of Its Round-The-World Journey

It's the first time for a solar-powered plane to circumnavigate the globe. Now it's en route to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — and you can watch the journey in a live video from the cockpit.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.