Something odd, bright and white in Martian dirt

Associated Press
This handout photo provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, taken Oct. 15, 2012, shows part of the small pit or bite created when NASA's Mars rover Curiosity collected its second scoop of Martian soil at a sandy patch called "Rocknest." The bright particle near the center of this image, and similar ones elsewhere in the pit, prompted concern because a small, light-toned shred of debris from the spacecraft had been observed previously nearby. However, the mission's science team assessed the bright particles in this scooped pit to be native Martian material rather than spacecraft debris.  (APPhoto/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
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This handout photo provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, taken Oct. 15, 2012, shows part of the small pit or bite created when NASA's Mars rover Curiosity collected its second scoop of Martian soil at a sandy patch called "Rocknest." The bright particle near the center of this image, and similar ones elsewhere in the pit, prompted concern because a small, light-toned shred of debris from the spacecraft had been observed previously nearby. However, the mission's science team assessed the bright particles in this scooped pit to be native Martian material rather than spacecraft debris. (APPhoto/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

WASHINGTON (AP) — NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has dug up a mini-mystery for scientists: an odd white fleck that sticks out like a beacon in the reddish soil.

It looks out of place, but scientists said Thursday that it's probably just a different hued bit of Martian soil.

It's only 1 millimeter in size and was spotted after the rover used its mechanical scoop to dig up some dust.

Project scientist John Grotzinger (GRAWT'-sihn-ger) said researchers first thought it was earthly contamination from Curiosity. But it's likely natural Martian soil that looks different because of the way it's angled in the light or how the soil broke apart. Or it could be made of different minerals.

Curiosity will use its camera and instruments to try to learn more about what it is.

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