What Is This Bizarre Ball That The Curiosity Rover Found On Mars?

It seems too round to be true — the Curiosity rover has found a ball-shaped object among the craggy rocks in its picture. This image was taken on Sol 746 of the rover’s mission on Mars, which so far has extended over two Earth years.

No, it’s not the leftover of a Martian baseball game and nor is it aliens. In fact, according to Discovery News (who is quoting NASA) it’s a kind of rock that shows evidence of water in the ancient past.

Ian O’Neill writes:

According to MSL scientists based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., the ball isn’t as big as it looks — it’s approximately one centimeter wide. Their explanation is that it is most likely something known as a “concretion.” Other examples of concretions have been found on the Martian surface before — take, for example, the tiny haematite concretions, or “blueberries”, observed by Mars rover Opportunity in 2004 — and they were created during sedimentary rock formation when Mars was abundant in liquid water many millions of years ago.

Curiosity is now at the base of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) — its main science goal — and scientists are hoping to find more signs of habitable environments as the rover slowly prepares for the climb up the slope. Mission managers will need to be careful as the rover has battered wheels from rougher terrain than expected.

The rover already has found other evidence of water in its landing site of Gale Crater, such as this ancient lakebed that could have supported life.

8 Replies to “What Is This Bizarre Ball That The Curiosity Rover Found On Mars?”

  1. Comments do not appear below your articles. After reading a few similar complaints under “Comments RSS” I suspect you are aware of this problem.
    One can submit a comment but not see others.


  2. It’s the Golden Snitch quidditch ball. It rests on Mars whenever not being chased by Harry Potter.

  3. Regarding the concretion, whenever one is looking and assessing rocks on the surface of Mars, it is necessary to recall that everything over the whole surface of Mars is covered in the reddish Martian windblown dust. And it is homogeneous over the whole surface. So this concretion could be hematite which would be a shade of gray (but could be other colors.) hidden under its shroud of dust. And I think the whole surface of Mars would look incredibly varied if not for the dust. Oh, there are the exceptions of areas where the wind has driven out and depleted dust cover. One notable area are the solar panels on the MER Rovers but also areas as seen from Earth that exhibit the seasonal change of colors. Mars seasonal color changes are due to the seasonal winds and clearing of Mars dust from large areas. Myself – I have most astounded by the conglomerate rock near Glenelg and what appear like remnants of mud chips on a mud flat at John Klein. Pic — pic.twitter.com/5n6kgTYekA

  4. The rover seems to ignore the most interesting rocks in favor of the sedimentary rocks it was intended to explore, otherwise we’d have closeup photos of the more bizarre rocks rather than blurry background images and the rover would have drilled into some of the odd rocks to learn their composition too.

    But scientists seem to more interested in confirming their original theories than in discovering what actually happened.

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