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Just Because a Mysterious Rock Appeared on Mars Doesn’t Mean You Get to Be Excited

Take it easy, Internet. The Martians haven't contacted us yet.


A mysterious rock has appeared in front of a stationary Mars Rover, and no, it wasn’t left by aliens. Yeah, we’re bummed about it, too.

In a symposium held recently to celebrate the ten years since twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit first began exploring Mars, head scientist behind the expedition Steve Squyres spoke extensively about the rock, seen in the image on the right.

The rock has been named “Pinnacle Island” (a pretty cool name for a pretty whatever rock) and was described at the conference as being “about the size of a jelly doughnut” (scientists and their incomprehensible jargon.)

Says Squyres, “It was a total surprise, we were like ‘wait a second, that wasn’t there before, it can’t be right. Oh my god! It wasn’t there before!’ We were absolutely startled.” Squyres says the rock was likely either flipped into frame (“tiddlywinking,” says Squyres, in his sciencey way)  by Opportunity’s movements or thrown into the camera’s frame by a meteoric impact.

“So my best guess for this rock … is that it’s something that was nearby,” said Squyres. “I must stress that I’m guessing now, but I think it happened when the rover did a turn in place a meter or two from where this rock now lies.”

Since the rock is flipped upside down, scientists are excited to observe how its surface reacts to being exposed to the atmosphere for the first time in billions of years. (Yes, you heard me, not because now they can dust it for alien fingerprints.)

We’re willing to accept Squyres’ explanation, but obviously a lot of the internet won’t be, especially since he admits the investigation is still open.

For my part, I hope that if there is intelligent life on Mars, it would come up with a less boring way of announcing its presence. Maybe set a bag of alien poop on fire or draw a couple of dicks. A jelly doughnut-rock is pretty lame, even with a fancy name like Pinnacle Island.

My guess is that the public’s fascination with the discovery is a hint at our hunger for more action-packed rover stuff like we saw with Curiosity’s landing. Hearing that rover is filming rocks on Mars is pretty much the same to me as hearing that it’s watching paint dry or grass grow. Actually, both of those things would be a billion times more interesting on Mars than a rock.

Happy tenth anniversary, rover. Now maybe find something a little more interesting than a rock that looks like a doughnut.

(via Discovery News, photo credit via NASA)


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