On February 14th, NASA Claims to have solved this mystery. Post your thoughts at the bottom of this page: Mars Rover Heads Uphill After Solving 'Doughnut' Riddle
Mysterious rock appears near Mars rover Opportunity
An odd-looking bit of rock mysteriously appeared in front of Opportunity rover in the beginning of January as the rover, waiting out the Martian winter, has not moved since the end of November, according to NASA.
The rock suddenly appeared on photographs taken by Opportunity Mars rover on Sol (Martian day) 3540 or January 8 Earth time, according to NASA’s website.
Photographs previously taken on Sol 3536 showed no trace of the rock. The body was named 'Pinnacle Island', according to Opportunity’s Pancam database descriptions.
The discovery sparked debate among bloggers with various suggestions of the rock’s origin.
Among some of the wildest suggestions was the theory that it’s a meteorite, and it literally fell from the sky and landed next to the rover, according to Road to Endeavor blog. Or that the rock is a piece of ejecta – a piece of Martian rock which landed here after being blown out of the ground by a meteoroid impact.
While more believable theories said the rock was something kicked up by Opportunity on its Sol 3540 turn, according to Midnight Planets blog. On January 7 the rover turned to a new target - 'Cape Elizabeth’, which would be the rock underneath 'Pinnacle Island.'
Currently the rover is at "Solander Point" at the rim of Endeavour Crater, maintaining favorable northerly tilts for improved energy production as it waits out the Martian winter, according to NASA.
In January 2004, NASA’s twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit landed on opposite sides of the Red Planet. Spirit operated until 2010 when it got stuck in sand, and later stopped communicating with mission control.
Opportunity has lived beyond its prime three-month mission and has been gathering valuable information for nearly 10 years.
The rover is equipped with a powerful set of tools to study Martian soils that may hold clues to past water activity on Mars. A decade ago Opportunity did indeed find hematite on the planet in the form of small concretions nicknamed “blueberries.” This provided some of the first evidence of liquid water on the red planet.
Source and special thanks: RT
NASA Scientists Perplexed by Mysterious Mars Rock Unlike Anything They've Ever Seen Before
by Julie Kent, Cleveland Leader
Life on Mars has yet to be found, although the Curiosity rover did find some compelling evidence last year that the Red Planet once had free-flowing, liquid water on its surface. That is about as exciting as things have gotten during NASA's explorations of Mars, until recently when a mysterious rock appeared on the planet's surface that wasn't there just a few weeks ago.
NASA scientists are perplexed, and have never seen anything quite like this before. Furthermore, it is unlike anything else they've seen on Mars itself to date.
Lead Mars Exploration rover scientist Steve Squyres describes the rock as looking like a large jelly donut, explaining:
“It looks white around the edge in the middle and there’s a low spot in the center that’s dark red – it looks like a jelly doughnut.”
The instruments on NASA's Opportunity rover that are analyzing the rock are sending back to Earth data that is as mysterious as the jelly donut-like rock itself. Squyres says:
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It’s very high in sulphur, it’s very high in magnesium, its got twice as much manganese as we’ve ever seen in anything on Mars."
Due to bad weather, Opportunity has been stuck photographing the same region of Mars for more than a month, which is how the rock's appearance was even discovered. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California have been monitoring the images that the rover has been sending back to Earth.
Two images of the area in question were taken. One shows the land with the rock, and an older image shows the land without the rock. Squyres says these images were taken no more than two weeks apart. Opportunity had not yet driven over the spot where the rock was pictured in the second photo, so how the rock got there is a mystery that NASA scientists are now actively trying to solve.
Researchers currently have two theories that could explain how the rock got where it did. One possibility is that the rover churned it up and threw it with its wheels. Because the rover didn't drive over that spot yet, it would have had to have thrown the rock quite a distance. This theory seems like the most likely scenario. The other possibility is that the rock was caused by a meteor, which would mean that nearby there's a smoking hole where the meteor impacted. The scientists do not see any such smoking hole nearby.
Speaking at an event marking the 10th anniversary of the arrival of NASA rovers Opportunity and Spirit on the Martian surface, Squyres added:
"I don’t know what any of this means. We’re completely confused, and everyone in the team is arguing and fighting (over what it means). That’s the beauty of this mission… what I’ve realized is that we will never be finished. There will always be something tantalizing, something wonderful just beyond our reach that we didn’t quite get to – and that’s the nature of exploration.”
Source and special thanks: The Cleveland Leader