Green lines point to a shiny protuberance on rock imaged by the Curiosity rover on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-California Institute of Tecnology. Image processing 2di7 & titanio44 on Flickr.

Another Weird Shiny Thing on Mars

Article Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

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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.



Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Misja van Laatum
Guest
February 5, 2013 5:24 PM

Small or not – that hardly looks natural…

Lutz Herting
Guest
February 5, 2013 7:42 PM

What? It hardly looks unnatural. It looks pretty much like a natural vein of a metallic mineral should look like.

Brian O'Docharty
Guest
February 6, 2013 2:39 AM

What are you smoking? That’s some good shiz!

Mohamed Helmy
Guest
February 5, 2013 5:38 PM

NASA didn’t sent good telephoto camera ? i have 42 x zoom camera i can share with you next time if you would send another reboot razz grin

Jimmy Mathieu
Guest
February 5, 2013 5:59 PM

A piece of iron meteorite trapped in sediments.
Not having free O2 in the atmosaphere could allow such a peice of iron not to oxidize completely.

Misja van Laatum
Guest
February 5, 2013 6:21 PM

Isn’t most of Mars’ red colour the result of oxidized iron?

Rodford Smith
Guest
Rodford Smith
February 5, 2013 8:00 PM

Yeah, but the oxygen is pretty much all tied up in that already, so there’s very little in the air. With that, and constant polishing by wind-blown dust, a piece of iron – especially meteoric nickle-iron – would be quite shiny.

Misja van Laatum
Guest
February 5, 2013 9:19 PM

Makes sense. Still, the shape is most peculiar…

Kevin Frushour
Guest
February 5, 2013 9:06 PM

Yep, that’s why there’s so little oxygen now.

kkt
Member
kkt
February 5, 2013 6:01 PM

It’s Michael Collins’ camera!

Stas Novikov
Guest
February 5, 2013 6:07 PM

I looked at the full size original pic and found a 2nd shiny protrusion very close to the 1st – it must be a vein of metallic mineral running in those rocks that’s harder than the surrounding ore.

Mike Filak
Guest
Mike Filak
February 7, 2013 2:49 PM

I agree

Aqua4U
Member
February 5, 2013 6:52 PM

Now THAT is definitely something worth going back and taking a closer look at! I hope NASA agrees? In the extremely magnified closeup image above, the ‘pedestal’ which appears to support the shiny objects, has an interesting color with rather a ‘golden’ or ‘rusty’ appearance? Jimmy Mathieu’s suggestion, “A piece of iron meteorite trapped in sediments” sounds plausible because whatever it is, if indeed it IS something ‘sticking out’ above the rest of the surrounding surface and not a simple optical or perspective illusion, must need be hard enough or durable enough to withstand erosion.

Aqua4U
Member
February 6, 2013 8:12 PM

Thanks for updating the images Nancy… You are SO on it!

Mike G
Guest
Mike G
February 5, 2013 7:16 PM

Could these be Fulgurite?

ozonator
Guest
ozonator
February 6, 2013 7:36 AM

Yes. “Fulgurites, or “petrified lightning”, are the glassy trails of lightning …. melted sand” …

Stephen L. Fry
Guest
February 6, 2013 2:23 PM

on Mars? Not likely.

Jeffrey Scott Boerst
Guest
February 6, 2013 6:08 PM

Unless it was formed millions of years ago when Mars had lots of water and thus, lightning, which would also be suggested by the erosion of the matrix in which it’s situated…

Aqua4U
Member
February 6, 2013 8:09 PM

The tribo electric charges on the Martian surface can be quite large during a CME passage… so I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility!

David Krauss
Guest
February 7, 2013 3:07 AM

No, the sand isn’t deep enough.

Todd Coolen
Member
Todd Coolen
February 5, 2013 2:44 PM

Download the image and rotate 180 degrees. It might be an optical illusion that it is actually protruding. I think the shiny is recessed. It still is unusual in appearance.

Olaf
Member
Olaf
February 5, 2013 8:38 PM

Curiosity is loosing screws.

Dutchy
Guest
Dutchy
February 5, 2013 4:35 PM

thats richard hoaglands bycicle

P Edward Murray
Guest
February 5, 2013 11:22 PM

Yes, we always knew he was a space alien right?smile

Jeffrey Scott Boerst
Guest
February 6, 2013 12:55 AM

LMAO!

ozonator
Guest
ozonator
February 6, 2013 7:28 AM

training wheel or baseball card holder for the spokes?

Eliane Chaves
Guest
February 5, 2013 11:20 PM

Pequeno, porém muito interessante.

Jeffrey Scott Boerst
Guest
February 6, 2013 6:14 PM

Uau, eu demorei três tentativas no Babelfish para discernir a língua… Pensei, “Italian” em primeiro lugar, em seguida, tenta “Spanish”… Última vala, Português… Eu estou envergonhado em minha ignorância. (especialmente acho (Portuguese)

Donkey
Guest
Donkey
February 6, 2013 12:07 AM

How many of my tax dollars will it take to have NASA bang a left and check that puppy out? I’m in for a fiver.

Neon Frank
Guest
Neon Frank
February 7, 2013 2:08 PM

To put what NASA spends into perspective, the US military has spent 1.4 TRILLION dollars on both the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars to date and for what exactly, the Patriot Act and the TSA?

In addition to this, the Pentagon has already spent 67 BILLION dollars on the F-22 Raptor fighter to name just one project out of many.

Meanwhile NASA’s budget est for this year is only around 18 BILLION dollars, which is probably what the military budget is for Porta-Johns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’ll see your fiver and raise you ten grin

Oflife
Guest
February 7, 2013 3:22 PM

Access to recourses that would otherwise fall into the hands of the Chinese. Period.

Like space race, money invested in F-22 will trickle down to the consumer long term.

(I’m in favor of your point BTW.)

Baconinjamaican
Guest
Baconinjamaican
February 8, 2013 2:49 PM

The only thing trickling down from an F-22 is oxygen.

Paul Priems
Guest
February 9, 2013 1:39 AM

What is it with you yanks and the Chinese, talk about paranoid!

stretchoutandwait
Guest
stretchoutandwait
February 10, 2013 9:28 PM

They need a war to make themselves feel special.

Marzilla Bryson
Guest
February 9, 2013 1:49 AM

Whatever the F-22 trickles down, I don’t want it

Mickael Godin
Guest
February 10, 2013 12:57 AM

The chinese have ONE aircraft carrier and it’s a soviet one from the 70’s. Please, go on about their scary air force.

Onton
Guest
February 10, 2013 8:33 AM

your nickname tells more then your words

Misja van Laatum
Guest
February 6, 2013 12:44 AM

No way … look at the shadow it casts (and compare to shadows cast by other pebbles and rocks), imho it really protrudes.

mmurdoch
Guest
mmurdoch
February 6, 2013 1:38 AM

It’s the spigot.

Dennis Nilsson
Member
Dennis Nilsson
February 6, 2013 2:03 AM

Could be rests of some of our earlier probes. Like ESA’s lost probe.

postman1
Member
postman1
February 6, 2013 2:56 AM

Looks like an old bolt sticking out of broken concrete.

Tom Watson
Guest
February 6, 2013 4:23 AM

once upon a time 500+ thousand years ago a simple ship sank off the coast of an island…slowly over the centuries its beams disintegrated leaving nothing but its nuts and bolts and a cargo of treasure incased in silt…. oh come on.. don’t say you weren’t dreaming for the same thing..smile

Richard Kirk
Member
Richard Kirk
February 6, 2013 1:05 PM

It’s a door handle….

Jean-Sebastien Gaudette
Guest
February 6, 2013 1:48 PM

I found another weird object, a green and white turtle shell looking rock formation with: Thin, Long, White appendages all around it, that seem to end with bigger extremities at the end of the appendages. It seems to hover and has dug dirt under and around it by spinning around, thus creating a perfect circle, usually rocks get buried over time but not this one… could this be biological? https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152513535650526&set=a.10152308609485526.933229.818750525&type=1&theater

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