The Lookout

Mars Curiosity rover stops sampling to check out shiny object seen on surface

The Lookout

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(NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The Curiosity rover is stopping its sampling of soil from the surface of Mars because of a shiny object noticed on the ground.

A photo released by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Curiosity's first scoop of Martian soil also revealed a bright object nearby.

The planned sampling has been stopped so that scientists can get some additional images of the unknown object and assess any impact on the rover's activities.

"The object might be a piece of rover hardware," the JPL caption to the photo noted.

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(NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

When word of the mysterious item on the surface spread, Twitter commenters, of course, chimed in with their guesses: a lost earring, a cigarette butt, a screw that came loose, Martian macaroni or some unusual chunks of sand.

[Photos: Curiosity rover explores Mars (updated)]

The official @MarsCuriosity account tweeted, "Team spotted bright object on ground near me—possibly a piece of rover hardware? Gathering more data."

A more detailed picture from Curiosity's ChemCam imager seemed to indicate it was possibly some plastic wrap or a small piece of insulating tape that is used around the rover, the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla told NBC News.

If it is a piece from Curiosity, it would just add to the many things the rover is leaving on the fourth planet from the sun during its $2.5 billion mission.

Among the things the mobile explorer, which is looking for evidence of past microbial life on Mars, has left on the red planet are a wheel print and some laser holes.

Oh, and then there are those odd spidery black objects that scientists say could be Martian microorganisms.

Could this shiny silvery thing be their tiny mothership?

Nah.

Once more data pours in, NASA I'm sure will have some logical explanation for what the bright shiny object really is.

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