Case File Information
Official NASA Caption: Microscopic Imager Non-linearized Full frame EDR acquired on Sol 654 of Opportunity’s mission to Meridiani Planum at approximately at approximately 12:02:57 Mars local solar time, Microscopic Imager dust cover commanded to be CLOSED. NASA/JPL/Cornell/USGS
Original NASA Source: Opportunity – All Raw Images Sol 654 (60 images)
What are we looking at? In this photo, there is, what appears to be, an unknown object hovering in the background. It does not appear to be a rock or other object connected to the rover.
Marc Dantontio, image analyst from MUFON, submitted the following explanation:
Marc Dantonio John, the object in question is not in the background because you cannot see the background in this image. If you look carefully you can see that what has been mistaken for Mars in the background is actually the surface of the vehicle itself to which the object is attached. The “Mars surface” ends to the left abruptly as the contour of the vehicle changes so you can see this is just a happenstance where being slightly out of focus made it appear to be a de focused Mars terrain. It is slightly out of focus because the micro imager is actually focused much closer on other parts of the vehicle at that moment. Mars is hopelessly out of focus.
After receiving this feedback, I was able to dig some more to determine what the actual “object was. It is, indeed, a screw on one of the arms of the rover. On Sol day 2 of the mission, the rover’s same camera captured this image: