Another Weird Shiny Thing on Mars

Article written: 5 Feb , 2013
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

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

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.

107 Responses

  1. Small or not – that hardly looks natural…

  2. 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 😛 😀

  3. 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.

  4. kkt says

    It’s Michael Collins’ camera!

  5. 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.

  6. Member
    Aqua4U says

    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.

  7. Mike G says

    Could these be Fulgurite?

  8. Diconaxes says

    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.

  9. Olaf2 says

    Curiosity is loosing screws.

  10. Dutchy says

    thats richard hoaglands bycicle

  11. Pequeno, porém muito interessante.

    • 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)

  12. Donkey says

    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 says

      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 😀

    • Onton says

      your nickname tells more then your words

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

  14. mmurdoch says

    It’s the spigot.

  15. Dennis Nilsson says

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

  16. danangel says

    Looks like an old bolt sticking out of broken concrete.

  17. Tom Watson says

    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..:)

  18. Richard_Kirk says

    It’s a door handle….

  19. 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?

  20. Looks like part of a previous NASA craft. Probably landed here after re-entry.

  21. La Marsienne says

    The Curiosity is way too curious in my opinion. Now they begin to take pictures of me sunbathing in my new silver swimsuit… Those earthlings can be impertinent voyeurs!

  22. SheasSuas says

    chocolate bar wrapper – messy aliens

  23. JLP says

    A harder peble on eroded softer soil

  24. Member
    Rob Pierce says

    It is a handle. Once it is turned terraforming starts.

  25. Its one of them metal player pieces from Monopoly

  26. Dont know about this strange object but there is a small hole in the rock in the mid left hand quarter which looks like liquid has poured from it in the very recent past, showing a rivlet.

  27. Greg Laden says

    It looks to me like a natural iron concretion, wind polished. Or, possibly, the handle to a hatch that allows access to an underground lair of tiny Martians.

  28. rob says

    It is a Soup Dragon, obviously.

  29. Don’t pull it, you’ll let the air out, and then we’ll have to reinflate the consarned thing again.

  30. Arx Ferrum says

    If I know my NASA, they will either completely ignore this anomaly or they will put the grinder to it and make it disappear.

    • Neon Frank says

      Yep, obviously part of an ongoing conspiracy to cover up the lost civilization on Mars.

      Truth be told, I’m guessing NASA is collectivity slapping their thighs laughing at all the armchair theories from the “Anomaly” crowd.

  31. Farsun says

    whatever it is, it’s sealed in Carbonite

  32. Oflife says

    A “The God’s must be crazy” moment?

  33. Tim Bonney says

    Ore deposit? Rock has weathered away around it… NASA, I’m available for consultancy. You should probably hire the guy that suggested hanging left as well.

  34. Paracelsus says

    It’s obviously unobtainium. It is an unobtainable material that is perfect in all respects for every purpose one can imagine.

  35. ??????? ????????? says

    ? ?? ????? ??????? ?? ???????, ?? ???? ? ????? ?????????: ??? ???? ???????? ?? ??? ??????

  36. It’s most likely a portion of the the stuff that helped the rover to a secure landing.

  37. jorge says

    Desde luego un rato raro es eso…

  38. jorge says

    Hijo mio, hay otros idiomas en el mundo….

  39. jorge says

    Perdón, me he precipitado un poco antes con mi comentario anterior.
    Metal parece desde luego…

  40. someone says

    It’s an alien hand holding a Gatorade bottle.

  41. ?? ??? ??????? ??????????? ??????? ??????? ????? ??? ??? ??????????? ? ???????? ???????????? ????????!

  42. Derick Ip says

    Rolls Royce buried in Martian soil, awesome!

  43. Para mi que es un perro robot…

  44. StarKiller says

    ?????? ??????!!!

  45. GuyMontag_WA says

    Nickle-Iron Meteorite that landed on a then sandy plane millions of years ago. Wind erosion removed most of the sand, but the increased weight of the iron meteorite decreased the susceptibility of the sand directly under, to erosion.


    A hood ornament from a mostly buried Jaguar sedan.

    Could go either way! 🙂

  46. Carl Gren says

    How exciting! Kinda looks like a piece of the T-1000 after it was melted, cooled and shattered.

  47. Roy says

    .5 cm is small I think they got the measurement wrong. The object in the photo clearly has a shadow so ether the picture is of small rocks or the size may have been .5 of a meter or about 11/2 foot. If it’s .5cm it could just be a different kind of rock or crystal or even a piece of metal but something seems wrong here.

  48. Looks like a ball-peen hammer to me:

    How a ball-peen hammer got to Mars is anyone’s guess.

  49. The short answer is that it is anything but what it looks like, which is a piece of metal,

  50. Naturally occuring Graphene deposits? Whatever it is Nokia wants another billion dollar grant to play with it and discover its potential for building mobile phones that sell better than their current models.

  51. Guy G says

    clearly a vein of silver.

  52. Did anyone read The Secret of the Martian Moons as a child? it’s warped through the 4th dimension!

  53. Vathilin says


  54. juls foi says

    Finally someone found my lost electrical tooth brush. Went missing after the last alien invasion.

  55. jnamaya says

    Is a piece of Chuck Norris bicycle.

  56. Rage Against Fraudy says

    Those are not rocks folks. That is shattered concrete. Looks like a water faucet to me. Phobos, the mystery planet mentioned in the bible was destroyed by an asteroid collision long before man appeared on earth. The asteroid belt is what remains of Phobos. Its debris rained down on the Martian civilization, destroying it. What Curiosity now sees are those remains. NASA can’t hide the truth for long.

  57. beam me up scotty there’s still no intelligent life on planet earth

  58. KE55 says

    Are you sure you mean 0.5cm, i.e. just 5mm long? I know distances can be deceiving in these pictures but surely it’s bigger than that,

  59. M Wayne says

    We have confirmed: It is in fact a set of car keys, misplaced by one Mrs. Edna Finklekrantz, of Fargo, N.D. in 1964.
    Go figure.

  60. AK says

    That seems to be the garden hose nob. Them little aliens must have left it behind in their gardens which might have existed some times back.

    Someone needs to try turning it on. Maybe they will finally get some water over there.

  61. Evgen Evg says

    It seems like, something was “edited” on panorama. Or they just want us to think this way.

  62. ?????? says

    ????????? ?? ????????.?? ?????? ??????? ????? ??????? ??????.?? ???? ???? ??????? ?? ??????.

  63. alan borky says

    You can clearly see what it is it’s a Martian bottle opener there’s even two upturned bottle caps sitting atop it.

  64. Abi says

    They’re not going to photograph it close-up. And the mainstream media will not follow-up on that fact later. In other words, business as normal.

  65. Mike says

    There appears to be another object with a rectangular hole in it between the two rocks at the bottom centre of the picture.

  66. chuck norris’ door to mars :/

  67. ArtLab says

    I think those are my sunglasses.

  68. Obzervur says

    With 3d glasses on, it looks like a 3 toed foot sticking out of the ground.

  69. Anita says

    if you look directly below the bottom green line below the shiny object there is an image of a person there more part of a mural that incorporates the shiny object looks to be some thing that you grasp on to

  70. Anita says

    not a vein mineral deposit,, a mural section ,,, 3 demencional art ,, ancient same stuff here all over the place no one looks same art type ancient murals on stone called petroglyphs have artifacts coming out of them

  71. It’s Martin, the gekko from the Geico insurance ad!

  72. HHH says

    Some body lost their trailer hitch.

  73. It’s a Terminator arm. 😛

  74. don’t worry its the plug in charge station for the rover lol

  75. Hymikenow says

    That, my friends is a Beer Tap and you are looking at the remains of an ancient Martian pub bar. There are natural reserves of Martian Best Ale underneath and here lies the hidden agenda behind the entire mission, to plunder the natural reserves of Red Ale occurring in subterranean wells on Mars.

  76. Larry says

    If Nasa thinks they have found an alien artifact wouldn’t they steer the rover over to the object and study it closely instead of speculating on a fuzzy photo from 50 feet away??

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