Another Weird Shiny Thing on Mars

by Nancy Atkinson on February 5, 2013

Green lines point to a shiny protuberance on rock imaged by the Curiosity rover on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems. Image processing 2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

Green lines point to a shiny protuberance on rock imaged by the Curiosity rover on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/CaltechMalin Space Science Systems. Image processing 2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

The Curiosity Mars rover has found some strange-looking little things on Mars – you’ve likely heard of the Mars ‘flower,’ the piece of benign plastic from the rover itself, and other bright flecks of granules in the Martian soil. Now the rover has imaged a small metallic-looking protuberance on a rock. Visible in the image above (the green lines point to it), the protuberance appears to have a high albedo and even projects a shadow on the rock below. The image was taken with the right Mastcam on Curiosity on Sol 173 — January 30, 2013 here on Earth — (see the original raw image here), and was pointed out to us by Elisabetta Bonora, an image editing enthusiast from Italy.

“The corresponding image from the left Mastcam is not there,” said Bonora via email, “which is a real shame because this would allow us to make an anaglyph.”

UPDATE: Since yesterday when we posted this, the left Mastcam image is now available, and so Bonora has put a 3-D view of this little metal-looking thingy. After seeing this anaglyph, it is even more perplexing! Make sure you view it with the red/green 3-D glasses:

See below:

3-D anaglyph from the right and left Mastcam from Curiosity showing the metal-looking protuberance. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems. Anaglyph by

3-D anaglyph from the right and left Mastcam from Curiosity showing the metal-looking protuberance. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems. Anaglyph by 2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

As Bonora pointed out, the protuberance seems different than the rock on which it sits – it could be composed of material more resistant to erosion than the rest and similar material could be within the rock, or it could be something that is “grown” on the rock.
However, it looks fairly smooth, and in fact it is not covered by dust as is the case for metal surfaces that tend to clean easily.

But “small” is the operative word here, as the little protuberance is probably about 0.5 cm tall, or even smaller 3 centimeters tall, according to the image editing specialists at UnmannedSpaceflight.com.

A closeup of the shiny protuberance. Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems. Image editing by  2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

A closeup of the shiny protuberance. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems. Image editing by 2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

Another zoomed-in view of the shiny protuberance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems. Image via 2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

Another zoomed-in view of the shiny protuberance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems. Image via 2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

Here’s a full panorama of the area:

Panorama of the area, from Sol 173. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems. Image editing by

Panorama of the area, from Sol 173. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems. Image editing by 2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

Whatever it is, the weird little shiny thing is interesting, and we hope to have more details about it soon from one of the rover scientists.

See all the raw rover images on the MSL website, and more images on Bonora’s Flickr page.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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